Each summer, some of Kentucky’s brightest rising seniors attend the Governor’s Scholars Program (GSP). Competition for spots in the free program is fierce. Recently, a pair of Owen County juniors — twins Hallie and Makenzie Risch — found out that they will be among the 2023 GSP attendees.

The highly competitive, prestigious program brings together the state’s future leaders and offers a small taste of college life.

This summer’s five-week GSP sessions will take place on three college campuses: Centre College, Morehead State University, and Murray State University. Students will not find out their session dates or which campus they will be on until a little later this month, so the girls don’t even know whether they’ll be attending GSP together or not.

Speaking on behalf of herself and husband, Scott, mom Heather Risch said, “We are honestly okay with it, either way. They love being together but would also be fine going on their own....Being selected for the Governor’s Scholars Program has definitely been the highlight of their Junior year.”

The girls also don’t know their areas of study, yet, either. Each GSP attendee picks three areas of interest and will be assigned to one of them.

Makenzie said, “The top 3 areas that I chose were architectural design, film studies, and music theory and performance.”

Hallie picked healthcare industry, film studies, and music theory and performance.

No matter what campus they’re on, when they go, or to what area of study they’re assigned, the twins are excited just to know they’re headed to GSP this summer. According to Hallie and Makenzie, the program promises “scholarship opportunities, building new friendships, experiencing college life, being independent, and gaining knowledge in the courses we study.”

They became interested in the program when Gifted and Talented Coordinator Stacey Perkins held an informational meeting. Doug Wainscott, their guidance counselor, encouraged the girls to apply to GSP.

The application process is a lengthy one, and the sisters began working on it in September. In addition to writing as essay, students are required to provide exhaustive information on extra-curricular activities, volunteer service hours, school activities, and honors and awards. Finally, each applicant must provide two letters of recommendation, one from a teacher and one from a member of the community.

Both girls had a lot to record on their applications.

Makenzie is a Hugh O’Brian Youth Kentucky Leadership Ambassador, an Owen County High School varsity cheerleader, treasurer for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and active in Rebels Outreach and the First Baptist Church adult choir. She is a member of the following clubs and organizations: National Honor Society, Student Council, Gifted and Talented Program, Civics Club, “O” Club, and BETA Club. For her accomplishments and involvement, she is being recognized in this year’s Central Kentucky Youth Salute.

Hallie shares many of her twin sister’s pursuits. She is president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a varsity cheerleader for Owen County High School. Like Makenzie, she is a member of the National Honor Society, Student Council, the Gifted and Talented Program, “O” Club, Rebels Outreach, Civics Club, BETA Club, and the First Baptist Church adult choir. She is also recognized in this year’s Central Kentucky Youth Salute. Hallie’s interest in healthcare is reflected in her membership in the Health Occupation Students of America Club.

Five weeks is a long time to be away from home. While Makenzie and Hallie have been to church camps and leadership seminars, GSP will be their longest absence from home.

They seem unfazed. For both, the benefits far outweigh any uncertainties.

“I am excited for the opportunities this program provides,” said Hallie.

Makenzie looks forward to “meeting new people and being able to be independent.”

GSP promises all that and more.

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