Three students will represent Effingham County this summer in the prestigious Governor’s Honors Program.
Rising seniors Sophie Usher of Effingham County High School and Austin Norwood and Morgan Rushing of South Effingham High School will participate in the four-week residential program at Valdosta State University, starting Sunday when they move into their dormitories.
“I was so excited,” Usher said of being selected for GHP, “because it’s a college experience pretty much for free. I’d heard all about how people go there and they have such memorable experiences.”
Norwood’s primary course of study at Governor’s Honors will be mathematics. Rushing and Usher both will major in agriscience, with Rushing focusing on environmental science and Usher on biotechnology.
For four weeks, GHP students spend their mornings in their major coursework and afternoons in other areas of study. Evenings include seminars, activities, concerts and performances.
“I’ve never been in a college environment before, but they tell us we can pretty much experience anything on campus, so I hope that’s going to be a good college experience beforehand,” Usher said. “I hope, when this goes on my applications for college, it’ll look very good, too.”
Only 1 percent of sophomores and juniors in Georgia are nominated for the Governor’s Honors Program. Once the nearly 3,000 nominees completed their interviews and auditions, Norwood, Rushing and Usher were among the 662 students selected to participate this year.
Norwood expects GHP will help prepare him for college not only by “(getting) rid of those first few week jitters that a lot of kids will have,” but also by enabling him to experience the rigors of college classes and professors.
“They’re not going to be there to care about grades; they’re going to be there more to care about trying to teach you something,” he said. “If you don’t try and learn, then they’re not going worry about it.”
Rushing agreed: “Just being able to experience that college level and the intensity of it, and have to study and keep up with the classwork, I just think it will prepare me for college when I go.”
Being selected for GHP isn’t all Rushing and Usher have in common. They both participate in the FFA organization, show livestock at the Effingham Fair and other events, likely will attend the University of Georgia and aspire to become veterinarians for large animals.
“I love agriculture,” Usher said. “I know that while we’re there (at GHP) we work with livestock, and I want to be a livestock veterinarian, so that’s the big thing for me.”
Though Usher and Rushing attend different high schools, they know each other through FFA and livestock shows. Usher looks forward to seeing a familiar face at GHP.
“I love Morgan. Morgan’s really nice,” she said. “We talk a lot whenever I see her through FFA, so it’s nice to know somebody else who’d going to be there.”
Rushing seconded that, though she also looks forward to meeting students from all over the state.
“I love meeting new people,” said Rushing, who will serve as president of the South Effingham FFA chapter as a senior. “I love talking to strangers. I can go up to someone and say, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’”
While Rushing and Usher are studying agriscience, Norwood will be having an entirely different GHP experience majoring in math. He plans to study engineering in college, likely at Georgia Tech.
“I like structural and mechanical (engineering), which kind of leads me toward robotics,” he said.
Norwood is contemplating studying design as his minor at GHP. He thinks that experience will help him in his work on the SEHS yearbook staff, and learning 3-D design while he’s in high school will give him a head start prior to starting college and his engineering career.
“My favorite type of math is not necessarily just a type of math, it’s more applied math with physics and with statistics,” he said. “Those are a lot more interesting to me than just mindless numbers.”
Norwood said math has come naturally to him from the time he was a small child. Likewise, Rushing and Usher have aspired from an early age to turn a love of animals into veterinary careers.
“It goes way back to when I was in kindergarten,” Usher said. “Everybody wants to be a veterinarian back then, but then most people grow out of it. I never really did.”
While the coursework will be rigorous, arguably the hardest aspect of GHP — being selected — is behind the students. They each underwent extensive interviews with a panel of judges.
“When they found out I wanted to be an engineer, they asked me stuff about engineering and physics,” Norwood said. “I was still taking AP physics at the time, so they would ask me how that applied to my future and made sure I understood.”
Along with their interviews, Rushing and Usher each were required to conduct and present a research project that related to agriscience. Both chose to discuss the Savannah Harbor deepening, including its history, financing and economic impact.
“I learned a lot,” Usher said.
“I walked out of that interview and I just knew that I did my best and I thought I got in,” Rushing said.