Transformational Learning for Rural High School Students


Rural high school students in Vermont face different challenges than their urban peers. They often lack opportunities to pursue specific interests, exposure to careers or role models in their fields of interest and access to technology.  They may also lack peers that share their academic or artistic interests. And the transition from small town to college life can prove challenging.

In 1982 Stephan Morse, then the president of the Windham Foundation, was part of a small group who acted to address opportunity gaps in Vermont education by founding the Governor's Institutes of Vermont.  The first Governor's Institute brought students from across the state together on college campuses with expert mentors and resources to pursue their passion for the arts.  The model proved so effective that Vermont's young learners can now study more than 50 topics with Governor’s Institutes on nine Vermont campuses.

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More than 10,000 students have gained academic skills, self-esteem, social confidence, and career pathways via the Governor's Institutes of Vermont since 1983. Sliding scale tuition and residency eliminates economic and geographic barriers to participation so that students can be attracted from every Vermont county, high school and economic background.

The Windham Foundation played an integral role in first developing the Governor’s Institutes and has supported the young people attending the institutes many times throughout the years. Between 2015 and 2017 the Foundation supported scholarships that allowed rural students to participate in the institute’s programs.