Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies

Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies
Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies
1000 North Lombardy Street
Richmond, Virginia 23220
Coordinates 37°33′28.5″N 77°27′13.5″W / 37.557917°N 77.45375°W / 37.557917; -77.45375Coordinates: 37°33′28.5″N 77°27′13.5″W / 37.557917°N 77.45375°W / 37.557917; -77.45375
School type Public, magnet high school
Founded 1991
Executive Director Don Skeen (interim)
Assistant Directors Phillip Tharp
Dr. Wendy Ellis
Patti Chappell
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 713[1]
Language English
Color(s) Green and White
Athletics conference Virginia High School League
AAA Central Region
AAA Colonial District
Mascot Green Dragon
Focus Areas Government & International Studies

The Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies (MLWGSGIS) is a public regional magnet high school in Richmond, Virginia.

One of the 18 Virginia Governor's Schools, it draws students from 12 jurisdictions: Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, Goochland, Powhatan, Prince George, Charles City, King and Queen, and New Kent counties, the Cities of Richmond and Petersburg, and West Point, an incorporated town. As the Governor's School for Government and International Studies, it shared space at Thomas Jefferson High School (TJHS) in the city's West End from its 1991 founding until summer 2001, when it moved into Maggie L. Walker High School after massive renovations. The stated mission of MLWGSGIS is "to provide broad-based educational opportunities that develop gifted students' understanding of world cultures and languages as well as the ability to lead, participate and contribute in a rapidly changing global society." Every year from 2006 and most recently in 2010 the school was recognized by Newsweek as one of the twenty-one most elite public schools in America.[2][3][4]


Selection Process

Applicants must undergo a rigorous application process in which three tests and an essay are administered. A combination of grades, recommendations, and test results determine the applicants' overall score. All applicants are required to have completed and passed at least Algebra I and Earth Science or equivalent, and are expected (but not necessarily required) to have completed Honors English and at least one year of a foreign language[5], although it is not uncommon for incoming students to take their 3rd or even 4th year of a language in their freshman year. However, it is not uncommon for many students to begin language instruction in their freshman year. About 10% of applicants actually get into MLWGSGIS out of an average of 2000 applicants from all the participating localities, making the freshmen class usually around 180. The school grades the applications, but it is the applicant's home school district that decides who is allowed to attend the school based on scores and available funding.


Each city or county that wishes to send students to the Governor's School must fund the school for the students that they send, as well as provide busing to and from the school. While the Governor's School allows allotments for each locality that cannot be exceeded, it is the individual localities that ultimately determine their own limit on how many students can be sent within the parameters of the allotment given and available funding. The Regional School Board of the Governor's School that oversees the administration comprises one school board member from each of the participating localities[6].


At its 1991 founding, the Governor's School for Government and International Studies was given the Thomas Jefferson High School building to share by Richmond Public Schools. The city school stopped accepting freshmen in 1991, intending to turn the building fully over to GSGIS by 1995. However, parents, students, and alumni of TJHS, as well as city politicians, protested the closing of their school, RPS reversed its decision, and in 1992 TJ started accepting freshmen again and GSGIS started looking for a permanent home.

After several years of false starts and administrative turnover, GSGIS finally obtained the Maggie Walker High School building, an abandoned former Richmond City school, as a permanent home. The original building, Maggie L. Walker High School, was first opened in the 1930s as a school for African-Americans. It was named for Maggie Lena Walker, the first woman and African-American to operate a bank in the United States and was once attended by African American tennis pro Arthur Ashe, as well as pro football Hall-of-Famer Willie Lanier, and NBA great Bob Dandridge. GSGIS took up occupancy in fall 2001 after several million dollars of renovations, and then adopted the name Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies, or MLWGSGIS for short, though commonly shortened further to MLWGS.


Today, MLWGSGIS is known for its outstanding academic record and high performance in scholastic competitions such as "We the People" and "Battle of the Brains." All academic classes are taught at an honors or higher level. A large percentage of Governor's School seniors are accepted into the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, and/or a number of other well-respected universities, including many in the Ivy League and Federal Service Academies[7]. The class of 2010 received over $8.1 million in scholarships for 159 senior students. Students perform well above the national and state average on the SAT, with scores averaging 2047 for 2009[7].

In keeping with the school's name, which indicates a focus on government and international interests, the school offers AP courses in American History, European History, American and Comparative Government, Economics, Psychology, and Human Geography,[8] and has received awards for high scores on the American History AP Test. In addition, the school offers 2 AP English courses, 2 AP Calculus courses (AB and BC), several university post-calculus math classes such as Multivariable Calculus, and a variety of science classes including AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Physics and AP Environmental Science, as well as Anatomy and Physiology, Genetics, Biopsychology, Forensic Chemistry, Engineering and Chaos Theory.

Students are required to take 4 years of a primary language, and 2 years of another to make up 6 total years of foreign language instruction.[9] Five foreign languages are offered through a 4 year, 5 year, or AP level, including French, German, Spanish, Latin, and Chinese. Japanese, Ancient Greek, Italian, Russian, American Sign Language, and Arabic are taught in a two or three year sequence. Many students take courses that are two or three years ahead of their grade level. In order to provide adequate course offerings, the administration offers a plethora of AP courses along with Dual Enrollment courses through Virginia Commonwealth University and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

Community service

To foster community improvement efforts, all Governor's School students are required to complete 140 hours of community service by graduation.[10] School clubs frequently participate in neighborhood cleanup projects. In order to receive a Governor's School diploma, all community service and credits must be completed. The 2008 graduating class completed over 34,500 community service hours.[11]


Award-winning and highly competitive teams at the school include:

  • We the People - 2003 National Championship, 2004 2nd Place, 2005 3rd Place, 2006 5th Place, 2007 5th Place, 2008 2nd Place, 2009 4th Place, 2010 3rd Place, 2011 National Championship, and four other top ten finishes. Virginia State Champions for the past 14 years as well. The advisor to this national championship team was history and government instructor Phil Sorrentino until 2008. The team is currently instructed by government teacher Matt McGuire.
  • Battle of the Brains (Academic Quiz Bowl Team) - Four national championship years (NAC 1995, PACE 2004, PACE and NAQT 2007, NAQT 2010) and several other top 10 finishes in national competition; in the Virginia High School League, 10 of 11 Colonial District Scholastic Bowl championships, 10 of 11 Central Region titles, and three state championships. In 2006-2007, the team was voted #1 in the country by a poll of coaches and players. The team validated that ranking by winning two national championship tournaments in impressive fashion. The team has been coached by John Barnes since 1999. Earlier coaches have included Ken Wilkins and Hal Waller, the public relations director.

On this team, they also won the first annual National History Bowl at the Newseum.

  • Model UN - Multiple Individual and Team Awards
  • Model Congress [1]
  • FIRST Team 422, the Mech Tech Dragons
  • Chess club
  • Debate team
  • National High School Fed Challenge 2002
  • Math Modeling Team - Top high school in the world with fifteen "National Outstanding" awards in the COMAP [2] High School *Mathematical Contest in Modeling, two winning teams in the undergraduate-level Mathematical Contest in Modeling, and two winning teams in the Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (also undergraduate-level). In 2010, a team of five students also won 3rd place and a $10,000 scholarship in the Moody's Mega Math (M3) Challenge in their first year of competition. Dr. John Barnes has advised this team to its victories.
  • Drama Club - In 2008, the school was awarded First Place For Acting by the Virginia High School League for Edward Albee's The Zoo Story. They won the same award again the following year for David Ives' Degas C'est Mois.
  • Life Smarts - In 2010, the Maggie L. Walker Life Smarts team won the Virginia State Championships.
  • Technology Student Association (TSA)- Top high school chapter in the state 1999 - 2000


MLWGS competes in the AAA Colonial District and AAA Central Region of the Virginia High School League. With fewer than 700 students, MLWGS is one of the smallest schools in Group AAA, a classification generally meant for schools of over 1,500 students. The school fields teams in basketball, dance, volleyball, wrestling, soccer, tennis, golf, swimming, field hockey, cross-country, indoor and outdoor track and field, baseball, and softball; only football is omitted from the offerings of a traditional public high school. The school mascot is the Green Dragon, adopted from the former Maggie L. Walker High School. In 2001, the boys cross country team won the state AAA championship, led to victory by head coach Jim Holdren. In 2010, Maggie Walker Girl's Cross Country became the state runner-up in the AAA championship. In 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010 the field hockey team won the colonial district championship. In 2008 the team was the central region runner-up to rival Thomas Dale, which qualified the team to go to states for the first time in 3 years. In 2010 the team won the Central Region Championship and once again played in the State Tournament.

Prior to the school's move to the Maggie Walker building, Governor's School students participated in the athletic program of host Thomas Jefferson High School, and shared TJ's Viking mascot and red/white official colors. As it became clear by 1997-98 that GSGIS students made up a majority or near-majority of participants in all offerings but football and boys' basketball, the teams in all but those two sports were officially designated Thomas Jefferson/Governor's School (TJ/GS) by the VHSL until GSGIS's move. MLWGS does not have a football team, despite being the only Richmond area school with a graduate in the NFL Hall of Fame, linebacker Willie Lanier, although he played before the school was shut down and then reopened as a magnet school.


Governor's School is home to 35 clubs, including politically oriented clubs ranging from Model United Nations to a Red Cross Club, as well as groups associated with most of the languages taught. Maggie L. Walker's high school quizbowl team has consistently been one of the best in the nation, recently winning the 2010 NAQT HSNCT tournament in Chicago.[12]

Dual enrollment

MLWGSGIS is in a partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), meaning that students can earn college credit for certain "dual enrollment" high school classes. This also allows MLWGSGIS students access to VCU's extensive library system.

See also



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External links

Preceded by
East Brunswick High School
National Academic Championship champion
Succeeded by
Memorial High School

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