By Jim Gaines
The Governor’s Scholars Program (GSP) will be able to accommodate 30 more Kentucky students this year, and for each of the next two years, thanks to an infusion of federal funding.
Kentucky is slated to receive just over $2 billion from a third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Most of that money will go directly to local school districts, but one-tenth is set aside for state-level use. From that set-aside, the Kentucky Department of Education is directing $75,000 a year toward supporting the expansion of the GSP as a summer enrichment and learning opportunity in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
With the goal of expanding equitable opportunities for students from historically underserved backgrounds and areas, Kentucky Department of Education staff – including Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass and Deputy Commissioner and Chief Equity Officer Thomas Woods-Tucker – worked with GSP staff and staff from the Kentucky Center for Statistics to identify high-poverty areas in Kentucky and elevate applications from those areas.
“We are proud to partner on this effort to expand the Governor’s Scholar Program to a broader and more diverse group of students,” Glass said. “This program is a powerful and life-changing learning experience for Kentucky youth. Going forward, I am excited about how these changes can be implemented in future years to create a more representative and equitable GSP experience.”
The additional Governor’s Scholars may be qualified students who might have to help support their families by working, whose families didn’t know how to apply for the Governor’s Scholars Program or who belong to traditionally disadvantaged groups, said Aris Cedeno, GSP executive director and academic dean.
“This helps us enhance our goal of bringing more representation from all over Kentucky,” he said.
Cedeno said he is very happy Glass took the initiative to use some of the state’s newly available federal funding to support the GSP.
In 2020, the GSP announced it would accept 1,020 students for summer 2021, but there were more who qualified for the program, Cedeno said. The new contribution will help more of those who qualify take part.
“Thirty more is a great support,” Cedeno said.
The five-week summer program will be held on the campuses of Bellarmine University in Louisville, Centre College in Danville and Morehead State University in Morehead. It costs about $2,500 per scholar per year, Cedeno said.
“We are not a state agency. We are a not-for-profit organization created in 1983 for the purpose of putting together an enrichment summer program for students between their junior and senior years in high school to enhance their intellectual and personal potential and help them move on their trajectory to be successful,” he said.
Since the beginning, Kentucky has funded about three-quarters of the program’s needs through state appropriation, Cedeno said. The remaining 25% comes from fundraising. The GSP budget currently stands at about $2.5 million a year, he said.
“The Governor’s Scholars Program was created originally as a private-public partnership, and the most important word in that phrase is the partnership,” Cedeno said.
The organization worked with state legislators to secure its annual appropriation, and with companies and foundations for the rest of its funding, he said.
“This is one more example of how the community – regardless of public or private – builds partnerships to build the future of Kentucky,” Cedeno said. “These students will be the future leaders of Kentucky.”
Governor’s Scholars come from all across the state. They are chosen by a selection committee of education professionals from different areas of the state. The decision is based on students’ academic achievement, awards, extracurricular activities, public service, a 500-word essay and recommendations from teachers and community members.