Local student accepted at Governor’s School

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By Reece Murphy

A former Lancaster High School student has been accepted as a student at the prestigious S.C. Governor’s School of Science and Mathematics in Hartsville.

Brooke Christensen, 16, is one of only 122 rising juniors in the state accepted at the residential academy for academically gifted students.

Brooke, the daughter of Hallie and Lon Christensen of Lancaster, said she decided to apply for the school almost on a lark after years of hearing both her parents and teachers suggest she apply.

“It just randomly hit me about two weeks before deadline,” Brooke said. “I looked at it online and it looked really cool.

“I thought it might be a good school for me, more challenging,” she said. “So I thought, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ and I applied.”

Founded in 1988, GSSM was designed to offer the state’s most academically motivated students a learning environment focused on what are now known as STEM courses – science, technology, engineering and math.

The school offers 45 STEM classes ranging from biology and chemistry to math, computer technology, physics and more. The school also offers rigorous humanities classes, such as foreign languages, including Chinese, history and psychology.

Brooke said the school appealed to her because of its focus on math, her favorite subject.

“I like math because there’s a definite answer; you can’t be ‘almost right,’” Brooke said. 

“It’s kind of fun for me to work out the problem and figure out what it means.”

While Brooke is indeed smart, she also excels at other facets of school life.

At LHS, Brooke was a member of Amitie Cotillion and last year won Miss Sophomore in the school’s Rambler pageant.

She also excels at soccer. 

In addition to travel ball with the Lancaster Futbol Club, Brooke played two years on the LHS girls varsity soccer team, earning the title of Defensive Player of the Year for 2012-13.

Lancaster High School science teacher Bobby Bullard said Brooke is everything the Governor’s School wants in a student. 

He said the 16-year-old is self-driven, ambitious, intelligent, hardworking, “willing to be stretched intellectually” and interactive with her peers.

Bullard said he believes the school, with its resources and access, will help Brooke reach her “true potential” as a student.

“I think Brooke will do well and prosper in the Governor’s School environment,” Bullard said. “It was a pleasure to teach her and I only regret the fact that LHS will lose a great student, and an even better person.”

Hallie Christensen said she believes Brooke is bound to be a perfect fit for GSSM, even though she would rather see her stay home instead of moving to the elite boarding school.

That feeling was especially hard, her mother said, once she found out students weren’t allowed to contact their parents at all for the first three weeks. 

Christensen said school officials told her and other parents that after the first three weeks, parents would be allowed to call and talk to their students – but they might not be able to reach them since they’d be busy with their studies.

“But then, in the end, you are very proud,” Christensen said. “They talk about the colleges that come down and talk to the kids, all the opportunities they have.

“That kind of outweighed the selfish side of me, of ‘Don’t you want to stay with your mommy?’” she said, laughing. “We are very proud of her.”

GSSM spokeswoman Allison Mann said this year’s 122 juniors and 98 seniors will be the largest student body the two-year school has ever had.

She said the school offers a first-class education that draws the attention of first-class colleges and universities from Clemson to Yale, University of South Carolina to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California Berkeley and CalTech.

She said it’s not easy to get accepted, and those who do get in are dedicated students in every sense of the word.

“These students are brilliant ... they’re the kind of students who have made all A’s since they were born, almost,” she said. “They are really impressive students, and they’re all interested in STEM. That’s their passion.”

Brooke, who said she’s leaning toward pursuing a career in psychiatry, said she knows what she’s getting into at GSSM. But she’s looking forward to the hard work and long hours.

“When I went (to visit), I met a lot of students and sat in on classes, and they told me it’s very hard,” Brooke said. “That there’s a two-hour requirement to study every day, but you really have to do more than that.

“I’m doing well in high school now, but I don’t always have to try,” she said. “I thought, if I apply, and do the best I can, how far can I go? I think the school will be really good for me.”


Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151