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Q&A with Chestatee High School senior Kayla Krauth, who attended GHP
1015GHP Kayla Krauth
Kayla Krauth is shown along with the communicative arts majors who attended the 2014-15 Governor’s Honors Program at Valdosta State University. Communicative arts, along with math, was one of the largest subjects that students were selected for.

What did you attend GHP for?

I  attended GHP as a Communicative Arts major, meaning that my studies were primarily focused on language arts and related topics.

How was your experience (positive or negative)?

My experience was a very positive one in so many ways! The classes that I took, the friendships I created, and the bonds made with the teachers were all things that I feel had a very positive impact on me, both as a person and as a student.

Can you tell me what your day looked like?

I personally went to a few morning workouts, which started at 6:15, and were available on the weekdays. After that I got back to Langdale, the girls' dorm, took a brief shower, then grabbed a quick breakfast at Palms, the VSU dining hall. Majors (the classes directly relating to our individual majors) started at 8:30 and ended at 1:00. The Comm Arts department had split up the Majors time into 2 classes, which we chose weekly. After Majors, we had lunch, then went off the Minors (classes pertaining to a subject of our own choosing ranging anywhere from ballroom dancing to World Languages). After that, we were free to do whatever we wanted as long as we followed the rules and stayed in “The Magic Square,” our designated section on the VSU campus that we were required to stay on. Dinner was served from around 5:00 - 7:00 and we could drop in anytime we wanted to. Majors were every weekday and Saturday, but Minors were only on weekdays, meaning our Sundays were completely free. We had hall-checks at 7:00 PM (after dinner) and 10:30 PM (before bed), just to try to ensure safety. Lights out was at 11:30, when our Resident Assistant, or RA, would pop by to make sure we were all in bed, at least pretending to attempt to sleep.

Also, throughout the day, the RAs offered a variety of Seminars for us students to attend and have fun at. I met several of my friends through these sometimes awkward, but always entertaining activities, and I am so thankful to have attended them. There were a few concerts and theater performances that went on as the weeks progressed, and the amazing display of talent that they contained was simply stunning.

Are you still in contact with people you met in Valdosta?

I am very much still in contact with the friends I made in Valdosta. It is amazing the bonds that can be formed in only 4 short weeks, but my group of friends and I became a family of sorts. As we didn't have our family and friends from back home to hang out with, we spent all of our free time together. It was really an amazing thing to watch a group of completely different people form such strong friendships so quickly. We are a very diverse group in many ways, so I think the fact that we were able to become such a supportive group of friends so quickly is fascinating. We have a Dance major, a Social Studies major (colloquially known as a Soc Stud), a Design and Technology major, and a few Comm Arts majors. We range everywhere from being Cuban-Germans to Puerto Rican-Hawaiians. Our running joke was that we looked like the cover a college magazine with our racial/ethnic diversity. Anyways, we still talk quite a bit today. We have a group chat and will update each other on life events every once in awhile, entertaining ourselves and each other with the casual banter that was so natural to us at GHP.

What did you learn?

I learned a lot of things. I think I was surprised at how much more I learned than I thought I would. The classes offered to me as a Comm Arts major left little to be desired. Every week, each of the five Comm Arts teachers would offer 2 classes, on during 1st session and another during 2nd session. Once these options were given, we chose a class with a specific teacher for each session. The classes that I took over my 4 weeks were the following: Slam Poetry (in which we wrote and performed pieces of Slam), International World Congress (in which we debated the definitions of various words through differing viewpoints), Othello (in which we focused on an in-depth analysis of the "evil" nature of the character Iago), Myth (in which we analyzed the concepts repeatedly seen throughout mythologies), Arcadia (in which we analyzed the complex and wonderful play written by Tom Stoppard), Beatniks (in which we analyzed the Beatnik movement through their work and created a piece of our own), Heart of Darkness (in which we read the novel HOD and watched the film Apocalypse Now in order to see analyze the darkness portrayed in various characters), and Fate vs. Free Will (in which we discussed the philosophical concepts of determinism and libertarianism).

In all of these classes, which I listed to show the diversity offered, the teachers each had their own quirks and ways of connecting with the students. I learned a lot about life simply by being surrounded by such supportive teachers and peers. I learned that learning for the sake of learning is fun when surrounded by supportive and motivated mentors and peers

Besides the academics however, I feel like I learned many important life skills. I learned that it is perfectly acceptable to have an open mind and listen to the reasoning of others while still standing behind the things you find to be truly important. I learned that having a discussion with someone from a differing viewpoint about a topic can, and should, be a respectful exchange of opinions and facts. I learned that while people may be completely different from yourself, that shouldn't stop you from being able to form a friendship and attempt to better understand one another.

Is there a specific end result that was visible to you?

The Comm Arts majors did not have any one specific end result, simply because of the diversity of the classes offered and the fact that we had a little homework, whereas most majors did not. That being said, each of the individual classes offered for Comm Arts majors often had their own end result. The Slam Poetry class and the Beatniks class, for example, both resulted in at least one piece of original poetry. There were also classes like the Documentary class, which ended with short films made by the students.  

However, most of the majors did have a specific end result. A lot of majors had a final presentation to give at a majors fair, which was pretty fantastic to see. The performing arts majors all had concerts and performances, which as I believe I said somewhere earlier, were absolutely amazing.

Were there any entertaining things that happened?

There were so many entertaining things that occurred at GHP. I suppose I will try to list a few, just to give the general idea.

Each hall in the dormitories had a theme, ranging anywhere from Dr. Seuss to The Hobbit. My hall's theme was... Sharknado. All of the girls on my hall thought this was great and ended up cramming into a single room one night to watch Sharknado with our amazingly hilarious RA Hannah. We loved the theme so much that our hall shirts have a drawing of a cartoon Sharknado that the girl across from my room did.

One of the many seminars that I attended was a balloon animal seminar. An RA had brought a bunch of twisting balloons and instructions for various balloon animals to let us have fun. Amongst the inevitable chaos of the situation, there was a math major named Evan, who was dedicated to his cause of creating a balloon snail army to rule the world. The comments he made through the seminar were amazingly hilarious, as he worked to make as many balloon snails as he could.

While we were on the VSU campus as GHP students, there were VSU students there to attend summer classes for the University. Well, one night, my friends and I were hanging out singing songs, making our own music, and generally having a great time. We didn't realize how close we were to a dorm occupied by VSU students nor how loud we were until one of said students yelled out their window for us to quiet down. Being the good students that we are, we rarely got into trouble, which I think made our terrified shuffling away so hilariously awkward.

Were there events for students on weekends?

Each Saturday night, there was a themed dance that took place on the Langdale Quad. The first dance was Team Time Travel, the second was Superself, the third was Party Animals, and the last one (which was instead on Friday) was a White T-Shirt dance so that we could sign each other's shirts.

There were seminars going on whenever there weren't classes, so there was always something to do. I attended the balloon animal seminar as described above, as well as plenty of others. Capture the flag was fun, as were the random Disney sing-alongs, talent shows, and craft seminars that I popped into.

Also, rides to local religious services were offered. Although I unfortunately never woke up early enough to attend any, it was encouraged for students to try new things and attempt to get a better understanding of others, so a good number of students attended a service or two that they would not have normally gone to.

How has GHP changed your outlook on your future or your career?

Honestly, I am a weird case. I attended GHP for a field that I do not wish to directly follow as a career. While I went for Communicative Arts, I want to go on to be a Mechanical Engineer.

That being said, GHP made me more aware of the importance of interconnected disciplines. I think that a lot of what makes GHP such a memorable experience is being able to meet students who are passionate in such a broad range of topics and seeing how they are all a part of the overarching image that is our world.

Would you recommend GHP to other students that have been nominated? Why or why not?

I would definitely recommend GHP to students who have been nominated. I know that the application process may seem long and arduous, but the reward is well worth the trouble. When I was looking into whether or not I wanted to apply, I kept seeing the phrase "life-changing" repeated over and over, and I just couldn't see what could make something so special. Now that I am a GHP Alumna I completely understand. I understand that the application process may seem difficult. I readily admit that the first time I applied, I made it as a semi-finalist, but did not make it to that final round. But to those of you who applied once and did not make it that first time, if you are given a second shot, seize it. I am so glad that I decided to try again and that I made it, otherwise I would have missed out on what was truly a life-changing experience. There is no way for me to fully explain the experience that I had in all of its glory without leaving something out. The students you meet there are amazing. The classes are fascinating. The teachers care about the students so much and are always ready to challenge and support them. Being in that kind of environment for 4 weeks can do a lot to change someone for the better.

What is your advice to future GHP students?

My advice to future GHP students is to put yourself out there and to try something new. If you are shy and reserved, sign up for that public speaking class. If you have never been in a theater production in your life, consider taking theater as your minor. If you are a social studies major with a general interest in how things work, look into a tech related minor. Go outside your comfort zone. Go to seminars, that's where you'll make new friends. Attend all the concerts. Oh, and bring an umbrella. Valdosta weather is bipolar.

Were the classes difficult or relaxing? Elaborate.

I would say the classes were neither difficult nor relaxing. The classes were challenging in the good way that promotes curiosity and causes students to want to try their hardest. The teachers expect for students to be self-motivated and hardworking, but if a student went through the trouble of the application process, it is very likely that they already are. The classwork is interesting to the point where it is sometimes easy to lose track of the fact that one is in a classroom. There is a sense of companionship and a relaxed air in classes, as there are no grades and everyone is treated as an equal.

Did you find one subject that you  are interested in pursuing in the future?

Although I do not want to follow a career path directly related to communicative arts, I realized that communication is key no matter what field one wants to go into. Being able to clearly express your ideas is a valuable skill that will help me attain my personal educational goals.

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