Dodging Dog Days


Samantha Strunk

Frequent tests, loads of homework, and demanding extra-curricular activities, among other school-related things, often leave exhausted students desiring nothing more than the promise of lazy summer days spent binge-watching the latest Netflix hit or relaxing with friends over coffee at the nearest Starbucks. While summer may be considered sacred wind-down time and, to an extent, should be treated as such, it is also important to not let all of your dog days go to waste.

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to attend Alabama Girls State and Alabama Governor’s School. Both of these AGSes made an incredible impact on my life and the lives of my newfound peers, and I highly recommend the programs to anyone searching to better himself/herself in the company of others seeking to do the same.

Alabama Girls State/Boys State

Walking into Girls State with no expectations for what awaited me, I was immediately sorted into a “city” of thirty-five rising senior ladies from across the state of Alabama. Surrounded by complete strangers and more-than-slightly intimidated, I began conversing with a few other girls in my same shoes, and with that, the bonds within the City of Camellia began to form. Structured as a mock state government, this week-long program is an excellent way to delve into the inner workings of Alabama state government all while developing lasting friendships. Upon arrival, Girls State delegates are randomly assigned one of twelve cities, a political party (Nationalist or Federalist), and a Congressional position (House or Senate). Once established, friendly (okay, sometimes not-so-friendly) rivalries run deeply among the groups. Greater than the factions, though, is the spirit of camaraderie among all attendees. Truly, the people I met at Girls State are some of the kindest, most personable, and most driven young women I have ever encountered. Girls State alumni returning as counselors help keep the twelve cities organized, and the four counselors leading Camellia provided my citymates and me with valuable advice important to hear entering our senior years. The girls within my city bonded over conversations of all types (deep, spiritual, ridiculous, sleep-deprived, etc.) while plowing through a large box of “Finding Dory” themed gummies and nursing Capri Suns. Now, ten months later, I am still in touch with the majority of the remarkable people I found within “Camellia Familia” and have been well-served by all of the knowledge I gained in exploring how our government works. For more information, check out the Alabama Girls State website: .

Obviously, I cannot provide as much insight regarding Alabama Girls State’s counterpart, Alabama Boys State, but this, too, is a very highly respected program, and more information can be found about it here: .

Alabama Governor’s School

Alabama Governor’s School is a thirteen-day-long adventure of a lifetime. Students selected to participate in the program have the choice of taking two classes from a gamut of intriguing topics ranging anywhere from medicine to creativity. Personally, I took a business class under the instruction of Dr. Howard Finch, Dean of Samford University’s Brock School of Business, and a web design class under web developer Joshua Gilmer. In my business class, I was able to learn about the intricacies of the business world and was given the opportunity to visit several Birmingham businesses which allowed me to see just how complex the operations of factories, retail stores, and businesses providing services really are. In web design, my classmates and I explored the fascinating world that is creative technology and, though my lack of aptitude for web design often left me frustrated, by the end of the class, even I had crafted my own site. Apart from the incredible learning opportunities, Alabama Governor’s School is a place to meet and befriend extraordinary people- each offering unique perspectives, beliefs, and opinions. The people I found at AGS stretched me as an individual through all kinds of interactions such as debating varying philosophies and memorizing every, single word to Queen chart-topper “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The friendships formed with these special folks extend very, very deeply, and they have carried on, and I am so thankful to AGS for giving me some of my closest friends.


Both of these summer programs introduced me to marvelous people I now call dear friends, challenged me in a myriad of ways, and served to help me grow in the company of ambitious students striving to broaden their horizons, as well. These programs represent a precious few of the opportunities out there for high school students hunting enriching experiences; do a little research and find one that fits you! Our Director of College Counseling, Mrs. Gaines, is an excellent resource in your search for something worthwhile to fill a few of your summer days. The opportunities are out there; start looking!