5 Panthers headed to Governor’s Honors


Ricky Macke, SELECTED TO ATTEND the Governor’s Honor Program for math, works on a calculus problem during instructional focus.

Erin Schilling, Staff Writer

Six students — five of them sophomores — got the good news from Assistant Principal Allen Leonard that they would be spending part of their summer at Valdosta State University as part of the coveted Governor’s Honors Program. Five of them accepted the offer.

Sophomores Alexa Echevarria, Ricky Macke, Marcus Bost,  Kelly Wildermuth, and  junior Thomas Evans will spend four weeks studying a subject they are passionate about and one they’d like to learn more about.

Sophomore Anna Hall also made it to GHP , but  another summer group also offered her an opportunity.  “I unfortunately can’t go to GHP  because I also got a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet in New York City, so I accepted that instead,” she said. Hall, nominated by Drama teacher David Spearman, would have studied dance.

Echevarria, also nominated by Spearman, is going for theater performance.  Macke was nominated by Math teachers J.B. Campbell  and Wendy Willoughby and will study math.  Bost and Wildermuth, nominated by Choral director Dr. John Odom, are going for vocal performance.  Evans, nominated by Orchestra director Cynthia Wilson, is going for the cello.

“We have a larger group this year than the last couple years, which is awesome,” Leonard said . Six of the nine SMHS students who auditioned at the  state level made the cut.  Most of the students are sophomores, but Leonard said this is not unusual. The only factor the judges look at, he said, is the talent and the love for the subject.  

“I think this year the amount of students going from Starr’s Mill is bigger than from the other individual Fayette high schools,” Leonard said.

GHP targets students who show high interest in a certain subject area. Teachers from each department meet to nominate students. These students advance to county auditions where Fayette County judges pick about 50 students to represent the county at the state auditions. State is the final round of auditions, and if the students pass, they earn the opportunity to take part in the summer program.

Once they are at Valdosta, the students’ major is the subject they were originally nominated for, and their minor course of study is up to them.

The state auditions varied depending upon the discipline.  Hall, for example, had to perform a dance routine in addition to her interview. Macke said he talked to two math professors from the University of Georgia

“One question they asked me is why I didn’t try to go for band because they noticed I had a lot of band stuff on my resume,” said Macke, who has played alto saxophone with the Wind Ensemble for two years.  “I told them I would rather play with math for four weeks.”

Macke isn’t sure yet what kind of math he will study at GHP, but he has his eye on a few possibilities. “I’m considering either number theory, combinatorics,  or non-Euclidean geometry.”  For his minor field of study, he said he is “thinking about physics, engineering, technology, or music.”

In addition to taking these classes, the students will live in a dorm during their stay.  “I’m excited about living at the college for four weeks because it will give me a chance to be more independent,” Wildermuth said.

The candidates said they feel excitement rather than nerves at this point because of their eagerness to be independent and meet peers with similar interests. “I’m excited to go. I’m not really nervous because I’ve talked to a lot of math majors online already,” Macke said.

The different GHP subject areas have Facebook groups where the students can meet each other before the summer program begins.

“I’m so glad I was given this opportunity, and I can’t wait to learn more about music,” Wildermuth said.

GHP will allow these students to showcase their skills and learn in-depth information in a subject area that interests them.