Churchill Downs welcomed outstanding Metro Louisville area high school students who are members of the 2008 Churchill Downs Governor's Scholars initiative to the historic home of the Kentucky Derby with a reception at the track on Wednesday, Nov. 19.

Twenty-eight students from Metro Louisville high schools were joined by their parents, family members and officials of their respective schools in the Trophy Room in the Churchill Down clubhouse to celebrate their participation in the track's Governor's Scholars Program.

The Churchill Downs initiative, which was launched in 2001, funds the participation in the overall Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program by students from Jefferson County and portions of surrounding counties who have overcome personal adversity and challenges to become high achievers in their personal lives and academic pursuits. One student is chosen from each of Jefferson County's legislative districts, some of which extend into surrounding counties, to benefit from the Churchill Downs Governor's Scholars Program.

More than 200 Metro Louisville area high school students have participated in the Churchill Downs program since its inception.

"Churchill Downs is closely involved in many programs, organizations and causes in our community, but our continued investment in the Churchill Downs Governor's Scholars Program remains one of our best and most effective community relations efforts," said Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs and executive vice president of Churchill Downs Incorporated. "Each student who benefits from this program has overcome a significant challenge, or challenges, to excel in academics and in life outside the classroom. We are pleased to work with the members of our Jefferson County legislative delegation in helping these remarkable students benefit from this initiative and applaud the Kentucky legislature for its continued support for this special program."

The Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program, now in its 26th year, allows 1,150 participating students from across the Commonwealth to spend five weeks on a Kentucky college campus to take part in an intense program of hands-on academic studies, leadership building activities and co-curricular programs.

Students selected to participate in the program do so at no cost to the student. The mission of the Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program is to enhance Kentucky's next generation of civic and economic leaders.

The leadership programs are conducted on the campuses of Bellarmine University in Louisville, Morehead State University and Centre College in Danville.

Dr. Aris Cedeno, the academic dean of the Governor's Scholars Program and an associate professor of Spanish at the University of Louisville, said the latest data on the Kentucky Governor's Scholars program showed that 84 percent of the program's participating students have continued their educational careers at colleges and universities in Kentucky. The data, compiled in 2007, showed that those students received an average of more than $55,000 in scholarships for their four-year college careers.

"In these days of economic crisis, when everyone has to prioritize more than ever, Churchill Downs' support for the Governor's Scholars Program becomes a key factor to forward the program's mission of enhancing the intellectual potential of Kentucky's future leaders," said Cedeno. "Churchill Downs provides these outstanding students from Jefferson County with an opportunity to realize their dreams. In turn, Churchill Downs ensures the continuation of a program that for 25 years has demonstrated a commitment for developing bright young minds. It is making a wise investment in the future of Louisville and the state of Kentucky."

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