Nearly 30 years ago, Governor Thornburgh's administration founded the Pennsylvania Governor's Schools for Excellence. He recently released two open letters, one to all Pennsylvanians, and one addressed to Governor Tom Corbett.
Open Letter to Pennsylvanians
The importance of education in America is unquestioned, yet sometimes budget cuts erode quality programs we cannot afford to lose. This has been the case with the Pennsylvania Governor's Schools of Excellence.
In 1982 my administration created the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Sciences (PGSS) summer program, hosted by CMU, with the intent that the best and the brightest Pennsylvania high school students be encouraged to pursue advanced studies in science subjects, far beyond their hometown experiences.
For 26 years the Governor's School for the Sciences graduated thousands of inspired and enthusiastic students, transformed by their exposure to university level faculty, laboratories and curricula. Many became leaders in academics, medicine, computer science, engineering and law - just to name a few.
In 2009, Pennsylvania Governor's Schools were eliminated from the State budget. In response, a dedicated group of PGSS alumni has joined together to restore the school. They have formed a non-profits corporation, the PGSS Alumni Association, Inc. and will begin fund raising in January of 2011 to reinstate the program by 2012.
The alums are seeking public and private grants and donations in an effort to keep PGSS tuition free and open to an equal numbers of boys and girls who qualify, regardless of their ability to pay.
The founders of the PGSS Alumni Association are passionate about the positive impact the program had on their lives. Their website, www.pgssalumni.org, posts hundreds of testimonials expressing deep and continuous appreciation forthe opportunity to participate in such a challenging and empowering program.
At a time when most education dollars in America are aimed at providing basic and mid level schooling, we risk diluting our standards of excellence. The PGSS offered the highest level of instruction and should serve as a model for other states to develop the talents of young scientists across the country. "STEM" subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are critical subjects for America's youth. Scientific discovery and technological advancement will keep America strong and prosperous.
I am as committed to education now as I was in 1982 when I authorized the PGSS. Help me revive the Pennsylvania's Governor's School for the Sciences and keep our youth excited about science and encouraged to pursue careers beyond their wildest dreams. Join me and make a contribution to Pennsylvania's youth and our collective future.
Open Letter to Governor Corbett
In your inaugural address you said, "I believe in Pennsylvania and I believe in Pennsylvanians. And in those beliefs is a certainty that the best way to embrace innovation - the best way to make us competitive - is to make us competitive in education." Many Pennsylvanians are dedicated to excellence in education as well.
I am writing to bring your attention to the loss of the Pennsylvania Governor's Schools of Excellence, which were eliminated by your predecessor in the state budget crisis two years ago.
In 1982, our administration established the Governor's School for the Sciences (PGSS) summer program, hosted at Carnegie Mellon University. PGSS joined the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts in enabling talented Pennsylvania students to pursue advanced summer study in specialized fields not available in their own high schools. (Several other Governor's Schools of Excellence later joined the fold.) For 26 years PGSS taught thousands of inspired and enthusiastic students, most of whom describe PGSS as a transformative, eye-opening experience. By taking challenging courses in such topics as molecular biology, organic chemistry, special relativity, combinatorial mathematics, and artificial intelligence, these students became inspired to take on great challenges in college and beyond. Many cite their exposure to world-class scientists and laboratories at PGSS as key in their paths to leadership in a variety of fields, including materials science, laser physics, microeconomics, cancer medicine, and patent law.
In 2009, the Pennsylvania Governor's Schools of Excellence were eliminated in the midst of a budget crisis. In response, a dedicated group of PGSS alumni has joined together to restore the school. They have formed a non-profit corporation, the PGSS Alumni Association, Inc., and have begun fundraising to reinstate the program by 2012. The alumni are seeking public and private grants and donations, in an effort to make the program available to boys and girls who qualify, regardless of their families' economic status, just as it was from 1982 to 2008.
The PGSS Alumni Association is passionate about the positive impact the program had on their lives. Their website, www.pgssalurnni.org. includes hundreds oftestimonials expressing deep appreciation for the opportunity to participate in such a challenging and empowering program. This was clearly a special program, and the Commonwealth would do well to explore ways to bring it back.
At a time when most education dollars in America are aimed at raising minimum student scores, we risk diluting our standards of excellence. PGSS offered the highest level of instruction by engaging students and teachers in the joy and excitement of humanity's great scientific challenges. This program should continue, and should serve as a model for other states to develop the talents of young scientists across the country. Many policymakers have identified "STEM" (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as critical subjects for America;s economy. Scientific discovery and technological innovation strengthen our state and country.
I remain as committed to education now as I was in 1982 when we first started PGSS. Please help to revive the Pennsylvania's Governor's School for the Sciences, and encourage our youth to pursue science careers beyond their wildest dreams. This is a key investment in our future.
I encourage you to meet with the PGSS Alumni Association to talk about ways your administration might work together with this group of volunteers. They wish to make it possible for the alumni to repay the Commonwealth's investment in them, in order make the program available to future generations of Pennsylvania students.
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