news-category: Summer Enrichment Programs

Gardner-Webb Honors Experience Provides Preview of College Life

a student prepares to give a mannequin patient a vaccine

High Schoolers Who Attend Qualify to Compete for Full-Tuition, Room and Board Scholarship

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.— A group of 44 high school students from all over the East coast spent five days recently on the campus of Gardner-Webb University experiencing life on a Christian college campus—eating in the cafeteria, living in the residence hall, and attending classes and chapel. They also participated in service projects at local ministries and were introduced to some of the fun things to do in the area. This year’s group was the largest to attend since the Honors Experience began four years ago.

This one-week college immersion program is offered each summer to academically gifted and talented students who are currently in the ninth- through 11th-grade. Participants in the program are automatically qualified to compete in the Gardner-Webb Ignite Excellence Scholarship program—the highest honor includes full tuition as well as room and board, totaling over $30,000 per year.

“Most of the students who come haven’t yet decided where they want to go to college,” noted Mindy Robinson, assistant director for The Honors Experience and coordinator for Community Engagement and Student Ministries. “Hopefully, this experience makes them want to come here! They can earn two hours of college credit, meet new friends, participate in local service projects, and hopefully grow in their relationship with Christ while they are here. They will leave here with a taste of college life, and hopefully, excited for what’s to come.”

a collage showing different pictures from the honors experience activities

The courses introduced students to biology, religion, Holocaust history, pottery, nursing and African American literature. Mornings were spent in class with chapel held before lunch. In the afternoons, they completed projects at Shelby Mission Camp, Mount Calvary Community Center, Washington Outreach Ministry, Rutherford Housing Partnership, Cleveland County Boys and Girls Club, One More One Less, Miracle Hill, and Ruby Hunt YMCA. They chose to attend two of the following classes:

  • “Molecules to Muscles” with Dr. Jay Zimmer (Biology).
  • “Dealing with Crises in the Psalms and Job” with Dr. Paula Qualls (Religion).
  • “Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? Understanding the Holocaust in Historical Context” with Dr. David Yelton (History).
  • “Turning and Burning: An Introduction to the Potter’s Wheel” with Doug Knotts (Art).
  • “Healthcare Heroes—Surviving a Pandemic” with Tara Hayes (Nursing).
  • “Their Eyes Were Watching God: African American Literature” with Dr. Kemeshia Swanson (Literature).

One activity in the Healthcare Heroes class was learning how to give a vaccine. Hayes, an instructor of Nursing and program coordinator for the RN to BSN program, demonstrated the proper way to administer an injection while giving step-by-step instructions.    

Nicole Mercer, a rising 11th-grader at R-S Central High School in Rutherfordton, N.C., was excited to practice giving a vaccine. Additionally, she enjoyed meeting new people and making friends. “The college experience is a lot different than I thought it was going to be, but it has also given me a little bit of insight into my future. I’ve loved visiting this university, because I’ve loved it ever since my mom (Michelle Mercer, Physician Assistant studies) started working here,” she said. “It’s really interesting to see everything that we would be able to do on the campus.”

A close up of a student filling a syringe from a medicine bottle.

Caleb Dorroh, a rising 12th-grader from Langtree Charter Academy in Mooresville, N.C., also liked getting to know new people, exploring the different subjects and participating in the activities. He was familiar with Gardner-Webb, because he came here with CentriKid camps. Although he was in a nursing class, Dorroh said he is interested in majoring in business. “I really like the nursing program here, because I loved how in detail everything was,” he commented. “They actually taught us how to give a shot and how to do surgery on a patient. I really like how engaged and excited everyone was when I got here.”

Olivia Tate, a rising 11th-grader at Maiden (N.C.) High School, is interested in becoming an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. She liked the nursing class and hands-on activities, but she said the best part of camp was meeting new people and building friendships. “The people make it so much better,” she affirmed.

Located in the North Carolina foothills, Gardner-Webb University is a private, Christian, liberal arts university. Gardner-Webb emphasizes a strong student-centered experience and rigorous academics to prepare students to become effective leaders within the global community. Ignite your future at

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