Andrew Petry is willing to give up a few weeks of summer to get ahead.
As part of the prestigious Governor's Honors Program, Andrew, a sophomore at A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School, will spend six weeks of his summer in front of a computer instead of at the beach or in the pool.
The competitive academic program is designed for gifted Georgia students who are rising juniors or seniors. Only 675 students out of more than 2,000 applicants are accepted from across the state. Andrew is one of 12 Richmond County participants. Seven Columbia County students are attending and one participant is from Burke County High School. Nine Aiken County students will be attending a similar five-week program in South Carolina.
"It's really good for your career and your education," Andrew said Thursday, taking a break from a computer technology class. "It's a good preview of what college is like. If you're looking toward the future, the big picture, and you're just giving up one summer - it's a tradeoff. But when you weigh it, it's a good deal."
Andrew, 16, will focus on vocational design (architecture). He and other architecture students will work on a project, mainly using computers, to renovate a rundown building. They'll come up with new uses for the structure and create models to illustrate their ideas.
That's the type of hands-on, in-depth work that the program provides students who want to immerse themselves in their field. It's a taste of college for many - a chance to leave home for the campus of Valdosta State University in southwest Georgia and spend time with other students who have similar academic goals and interests.
"In school, you just memorize and write it down on a test," said Eric Scukanec, 16, a junior at Evans High School who'll be majoring in math.
An older brother who attended the program told Eric that GHP classes allowed students to apply their skills, not just parrot information. That's a big reason Eric, who's already taking calculus classes at Augusta State University, wanted to go.
Students focusing on academic areas such as math, science or languages had to take tests and go through local and state-level interviews. Andrew also had to provide a portfolio of his work for review. Teens focusing on artistic areas such as drama or music had to audition, in addition to the interviews. Students have to be recommended by a teacher to apply to the program.
"I auditioned last year and I didn't make it," said Ashley Sisco, 16, an Evans High junior who'll be attending this summer and majoring in music. "I've wanted to do it since I heard about it."
The audition process was frustrating and stressful, particularly when she found out she would have to play for the same people who turned her down last year. It didn't help that one of the judges walked around and peered over Ashley's shoulder while she played her saxophone.
"It was kind of daunting," she said.
The chance to immerse herself in music for eight hours a day and to meet interesting people was worth it, she said.
The $1 million state-funded program, begun in 1963 by Gov. Carl Sanders, allows students to focus on academic, artistic or vocational majors such as math, drama or design. Students also select a minor from the available areas of study. Top teachers from all over the state apply to teach the classes.
Ferneasa Cutno, from Augusta's Cutno Dance studio, will be one of the program's dance instructors this year.
Students spend their day in four-hour blocks of classes in their major area, and a shorter amount of time in their minor. Afternoons also can include an eclectic variety of seminars, ranging from poetry to movies. A focus of the program is to teach students to be independent thinkers, and look ahead to skills they'll need in college.
Students in performance majors will present pieces for their peers, and guest performers also will come to the program.
Renowned jazz trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, an alumnus of the Georgia program, will be performing this year, program director Joe Searles said.
"We call them the Lincoln Center Jazz All-Stars," Mr. Searles said. "He and some of his colleagues who play with Wynton Marsalis will come and play. They'll hang out with the students for a couple of days."
Andrew Beaty, Aiken High School, music (viola)
Eric Brown, South Aiken High School, drama
Haley Culp, Aiken High School, dance
Danielle Doucet, South Aiken High School, creative writing
Brittany Eskierka, North Augusta High School, dance
Erica Hall, Aiken High School, music (bassoon)
Lauren Maxwell, Aiken Christian School, voice (soprano)
Sierra Rhoden, Aiken High School, visual arts
Joseph Stanek, North Augusta High School, voice (tenor/baritone)
Sara Jones, Burke County High School, communication arts
Po-hao Howard Chen, Lakeside High School, math
Brian Hsu, Lakeside High School, social studies
Aditya Madawat, Lakeside High School, social studies
Sarah Rigot, Lakeside High School, music (piano)
Eric Scukanec, Evans High School, math
Ashley Sisco, Evans High School, music (woodwind)
David Tian, Lakeside High School, math
Travys Courtney, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, Spanish
Allen Fogle, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, music (French horn)
Nicholas Harrison, Glenn Hills High School, vocational business management
Benjamin Hobbs, Glenn Hills High School, math
Meghan Howard, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, Latin
Melissa Lewis, Cross Creek High School, vocational business management
Rachel L'Heurenx, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, Latin
Daniel Mealing, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, science
Candice McFalls, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, dance
Andrew Petry, A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School, vocational design
Courtney Reece, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, visual art
Megan Scarboro, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, theater
Kimberley Turner, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, Spanish
Reach Alisa DeMao at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org