Published: June 07, 2005 | Author: Renee Ballenger | Read Time: 3 minutes

While most students spend their summers away from books and teachers, 50 of Utah’s brightest high school students will not be taking a break from the classroom.

Each year, Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, hosts the Governor’s Honors Academy where only a few of the top high school students are invited to participate in the prestigious program. They spend 9 days in June attending a lecture series, presenting papers, learning valuable leadership skills, and making new friends.

The Governor's Honors Academy [GHA], running this year from June 21-30, is a program designed for Utah's most gifted high-school leaders and scholars entering twelfth grade. The objective of the program is to cultivate the brightest of Utah's high school students in high quality leadership, personal achievement, academics and community service. The program provides students with a stimulating curriculum of study with subjects ranging from science to Shakespeare and from creativity to leadership. These, and other subjects, are discussed by a dynamic Academy Faculty and many distinguished lecturers with corporate, government, media and other professional backgrounds. Students attending SUU’s GHA obtain a broader vision of personal potential for leadership; develop a keener ability to create and implement new ideas; learn fresh approaches and new skills in group dynamics; acquire an increased awareness of personal goals and objectives; and achieve a collegiate orientation to develop their future.

Jared Wilcken, associate director of admissions at SUU, believes the Academy is an excellent opportunity for Utah to train its future leaders. “[The Academy] works to empower Utah’s youth and nurture the life of the mind. Our hope is to send them back with a different vision of what they can do, how they can make a difference in their communities.”

Students who are accepted must be a current high school sophomore or junior with at least a 3.85 GPA. They must also submit three letters of recommendation, one of which needs to be from their school counselor, transcripts, a 750-word essay on any topic, and a resume.

The cost to participate is $700 which includes meals and lodging, entrance into national parks, tickets to attend two Utah Shakespearean Festival plays, and lecture presentations from more than two dozen local and national speakers. Students are encouraged to raise the money through community sponsorships. This fundraising method increases the student’s appreciation for the experience and puts the support of the community behind the student.

GHA always boasts an impressive line up of lecturers. Past lecturers include former Governor Michael O. Leavitt, Senator Jake Garn, former Governor Olene Walker, KSL News reporter Debbie Dujanovic, Utah Humanities Council Chairman France Davis, and Senator Robert Bennett.

The Academy was established in 1988 by D. Mark Barton, now vice president of advancement, Governor Norman Bangerter and former SUU president, Gerald R. Sherratt. Their goal was to cultivate high quality leadership, personal achievement, academics, and community service in the brightest of Utah’s high school students. The Governor’s Honors Academy is endorsed by Michael O. Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and a frequent visitor and lecturer at GHA, not to mention an SUU alum. The Academy is proud to recognize the quality and caliber of Utah’s most valuable resource, its young leaders. For more information, call (435) 586-7741 or email Visit the Governor’s Honors Academy website at


Through its more than 100-year history, Southern Utah University has evolved from a teacher training school into its current role as a comprehensive, regional university to 6,000 students from across the globe. It serves the southern region of Utah and contiguous counties in surrounding states with undergraduate and graduate programs in six colleges. People of the region look to the University for outreach services, culture, economic and business development, higher learning, regional history, public affairs, major academic specialties, and significant entertainment and recreation. Accentuated by the notable, economic value of its services, SUU's hallmark is its quality staff, faculty and academics.

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