Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies
||This article possibly contains original research. (February 2010)|
|Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies|
|1000 North Lombardy Street
Richmond, Virginia 23220
|School type||Public, magnet high school|
|Executive Director||Dr. Jeff McGee|
|Assistant Directors||Mr. Phillip Tharp
Dr. Wendy Ellis
|Color(s)||Green and White|
|Athletics conference||Virginia High School League
AAA Central Region
AAA Colonial District
|Focus Areas||Government & International Studies|
Maggie L. Walker High School
|Location||1000 N. Lombardy St., Richmond, Virginia|
|Area||12 acres (4.9 ha)|
|Architect||Carneal, Johnston & Wright|
|Architectural style||Art Deco|
|NRHP Reference #||98001160|
|Added to NRHP||September 9, 1998|
|Designated VLR||June 17, 1998|
The Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies (MLWGSGIS) is a public regional magnet high school in Richmond, Virginia. It is generally thought of as the contrast to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
One of the 18 Virginia Governor's Schools, it draws students from 13 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 since 2006 the school was recognized by Newsweek as one of the twenty-one most elite public schools in America. In 2013, Maggie Walker was ranked 14th in Newsweek's "Best Public High Schools"  In 2014, Maggie Walker was ranked 10th in The Daily Beast's "Best High Schools" and 7th in their "25 Best High Schools in the South."
Applicants must undergo a rigorous application process in which four tests (three tests with three subsections each, one large test) and an essay are administered. A combination of grades, recommendations, and test results determine the applicants' overall score. All applicants must have completed and passed at least Algebra I or equivalent, and are expected (but not necessarily required) to have completed Honors English, Earth Science and at least one year of a foreign language, although it is not uncommon for incoming students to take their 3rd or even 4th year of a language in their freshman year. On the other hand, many students begin language instruction in their freshman year. About 9% 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.
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, NBA great Bob Dandridge, and video game designer Mohammad Alavi. 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, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and/or a number of other well-respected universities, including many in the Ivy League and Federal Service Academies. The class of 2013 received over $14 million in merit-based scholarships for 178 senior students. Students perform well above the national and state average on the SAT, with scores averaging 2047 for 2009.
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, Micro and Macro Economics, Psychology, and Human Geography,  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. 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 also offers a plethora of Dual Enrollment courses through Virginia Commonwealth University.
The school's seniors also conduct either a mentorship or seminar class during their senior year. Seminars are focused classes which are founded on student interest, and some are taught by visiting university faculty. They range in topics including architecture, international law, economics, military history, photojournalism, and more. The mentorship program provides Maggie Walker seniors the opportunity to use class time to work at a local business with an expert in a field that interests them. Mentorship students log a minimum of 125 hours at their mentorship site, working at places such as The Federal Reserve, Democratic campaign offices, art galleries, VCU Medical Center, or Virginia Commonwealth University. Both mentorship and seminar students conduct scholarly research throughout the year dealing with their mentorship or seminar, and this research is presented at the end of the year during the school's annual senior showcase. 
To foster community improvement efforts, all Governor's School students are required to complete 140 hours of community service by graduation. 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.
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. It would normally play in Group A, the smallest enrollment classification in the VHSL, but plays in Group AAA in order to play with the other Richmond-area schools and because there are so few Group A schools within a reasonable driving distance. 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, the Maggie Walker girls cross country team became the state runner-up in the AAA championship. In 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011 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 and 2011 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 98 student clubs and activities, ranging from politically oriented clubs from Model United Nations to a Red Cross Club, as well as languages groups.
- We the People – 2003 National Championship, 2004 National 2nd Place, 2005 National 3rd Place, 2006 National 5th Place, 2007 National 5th Place, 2008 National 2nd Place, 2009 National 4th Place, 2010 National 3rd Place, 2011 National Championship, 2012 National 2nd Place, 2014 3rd place, and four other top ten finishes; sixteen-time Virginia State Champions as well. The adviser to this national championship team was history and government teacher Phil Sorrentino through 2008 and government teacher Matt McGuire through 2012. After a hiatus during the 2012-2013 school year, the team returned to become the 2014 Virginia State Champions under the leadership of government teacher Sam Ulmschneider (himself a MLWGSGIS and We The People alumnus). The 2014 team placed 3rd at the national competition.
- 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 was coached by John Barnes from 1999 to 2013. Earlier coaches have included Ken Wilkins and Hal Waller, the Governor's School Foundation director.
- National History Bowl in its inaugural year.
- Model UN – Multiple Individual and Team Awards
- Model Congress
- FIRST Robotics Competition Team 422, the Mech Tech Dragons – Ranked 20 out of 100 in the Galileo division at the 2013 International Championship, the highest ranked Virginia team there. Ranked 4 out of 58 at the 2013 D.C. Regional. Judge's Award at the 2013 Virginia Regional. Chairman's Award and Entrepreneurship Award at the 2014 Virginia Regional.
- Chess Club – First place in the Greater Richmond High School Chess League (GRHSCL), March 2013. First place in the Virginia High School Chess League (VHSCL), March 2013. Third place at the Virginia Scholastic & Collegiate Chess Championships (K–12), March 2013.
- Debate team – In the last 11 years, Maggie Walker has placed first in the state CFL debate tournament.
- National High School Fed Challenge 2002
- Math Modeling – Top high school in the world with fifteen "National Outstanding" awards in the COMAP 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 and Mr. Dickson Benesh have advised these teams to their 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 and again in 2012 for Philip Moeller's play Helena's Husband
- Life Smarts – In 2010 and 2013, 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
- Scholastic Art and Writing Awards - Maggie Walker Students brought home the most regional awards of any Richmond area high school, and in the 2013 awards Maggie Walker had 6 national award winners including a Gold Medal and an American Visions Medal.
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.
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