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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Governor's School Prepares Virginia High Senior For Dorm Life

Nicholas Ratcliff poses with a piano sculpture that he made while attending the Governor's School. (Photo by Andre Teague|Bristol Herald Courier)
Nicholas Ratcliff poses with a piano sculpture that he made while attending the Governor's School. (Photo by Andre Teague|Bristol Herald Courier)

By Ben Shupe | Special to the Herald Courier | August 11, 2008

*** This article was published Aug. 9, 2008 in the Bristol Herald Courier. ***

BRISTOL, Va. — While many high school upperclassmen begin preparing for college, Nicholas Ratcliff has taken extra steps to ready himself for life beyond the 12th grade.

The Bristol Virginia High School senior, who has attended a regional governor's school each summer since middle school, recently completed a term at the Governor's School for Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Richmond.

Exceptional artistic talent and dedication must be demonstrated in order to be chosen to attend the UR governor's school.

In addition to a talent for drawing, Nicholas plays the piano and bagpipes. He also designing structures, and the 17-year-old aspires to be an architect.

Nicholas' invitation to the Visual and Performing Arts Governor's School was unexpected. He was planning to attend a Governor's School at The University of Virginia at Wise.

"It was a really big surprise," Nicholas said.

The experience exposed him to different forms of art, having previously focused on drawing.

In the first class session, Nicholas and his classmates attempted to draw human forms on a gigantic piece of paper, using a marker attached to a spinning drill bit.

"It ended up looking really cool," he said. "They tried to teach us that you can't always make things perfect in art and to appreciate what you have made."

Nicholas also had the opportunity to work with sculpture and film. One project was a piano sculpture made from plywood and cardboard tubes.

He appreciated his forays into different genres, and the instructors' intentions behind the projects.

"They wanted you to find out who you were as an artist," he said. "They also wanted you to experience everything [first]."

In addition to the academic aspect of the summer school, Nicholas also found practical value in the experience. He learned how to live away from home in a dormitory setting, perhaps the biggest adjustment for most college students.

"Now I know what it's like to live on a campus and in a small space with another person," he said. "All this stuff is positive. It makes me excited about college because I liked being around the people all the time and being constantly stimulated."

Additionally, he learned how to do his own laundry.

After returning home recently, Nicholas is preparing for his final year of high school and looks forward to the coming years of college.

Although he enjoyed experimenting with different art forms during the summer, his choice is apparent; exemplified by sketches of buildings throughout the small studio adjoining his bedroom.

Nicholas plans to major in architecture, hopefully at The University of Virginia, and someday own an architectural firm.