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Hall students tour Governors Mansion
House has a personal touch
Joy Forth, executive director for the Georgia Governor’s Mansion, right, takes students from the Hall County Honors Mentorship Program through the guest bedroom Thursday during a tour of the mansion in Atlanta. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

When it comes to living in the Governor's Mansion, the biggest adjustment so far has been laundry, First Lady Sandra Deal told visiting Hall County students Thursday.

"The most different thing to get used to is someone else doing your laundry," Deal said.

She added, "It's like a dream world to come in and have someone who prepares your breakfast and lunch."

Thirty-six high school students from Hall County's Honor Mentorship Program met with Deal for a personal tour of the Governor's Mansion and a behind-the-scenes glimpse in to the state's executive branch.

North Hall Middle School teacher Kathy Mellette, who knows Deal from her teaching days, organized the special field trip. Deal taught English and social studies at North Hall Middle for more than a decade.

"It was quite an honor that she spent time with the students today and allowed them to ask personal questions," Mellette said.

During the question and answer session, senior Mingi Sim of Johnson High School asked Deal about the HOPE scholarship. The popular lottery-funded program, which is used by 20,000 Georgians annually, is struggling financially and could face cuts this year.

"It's something that directly affects me since I'm going in to college this fall," Sim said.

Deal said the funding issue is still under debate by the Legislature, but her husband is committed to preserving the program.

"Our level of income for it is not enough to pay for the extras we need," she said. "We have to do something to salvage it for the future or we may not have it at all."

Her husband, Gov. Nathan Deal, and legislative leaders agreed on a plan to rescue the HOPE scholarship by capping the awards so they no longer rise as tuition does, Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams said Thursday.

Students were also given an insight to Deal's duties as first lady.

She told the students she will sometimes step in for events if her husband is unable to attend. She also devotes her time to promoting special causes and organizations.

"If I can draw attention to a good cause by being there or helping out a little bit, that's what I want to do," she said.

Senior Kevin Fitzgerald was curious about what makes a good politician.

A good education is the first step, Deal said. "Read and be informed. And for goodness sakes, register to vote."

The students also walked the halls of the 30-room mansion in downtown Atlanta, which contains museum-quality furniture from across the United States.

The house also included a few personal touches from the Deals, such as Cabbage Patch Dolls that were created in their likeness by Babyland Hospital in Cleveland. The dolls were placed in chairs in the formal dining room.

"It's surreal to see what the mansion looks like and how much history is here," North Hall High School student Allison Cape said.

Her classmate, Morgan Smith, said the home was beautiful but wondered about the privacy.

"It would be hard to be in your pajamas when a tour is going on downstairs," she said.

The first lady said she was happy to host students from her home county and impressed by the lessons they're learning in the Honor Mentorship Program, which pairs students with a community partner.

"I hope they realize there are opportunities for them out there and that they make the most of them," she said. "Their success will benefit others."


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