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

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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 77.453750°W / 37.557917; -77.453750Coordinates: 37°33′28.5″N 77°27′13.5″W / 37.557917°N 77.453750°W / 37.557917; -77.453750
School type Public, magnet high school
Founded 1991
Executive Director Dr. John Lewis
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 758[1] (2016-17)
Language English
Color(s) Green and White
Athletics conference Virginia High School League
AAA Central Region
AAA Colonial District
Mascot Green Dragon
Acceptance rate 15-16%A
Focus Areas Government & International Studies
Maggie L. Walker High School
In 2013
Area 12 acres (4.9 ha)
Built 1938 (1938)
Architect Carneal, Johnston & Wright
Architectural style Art Deco
NRHP Reference # 98001160[2]
VLR # 127-0414
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 9, 1998
Designated VLR June 17, 1998[3]

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 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.[4] 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."[5] Every year since 2006 the school was recognized by Newsweek as one of the twenty-one most elite public schools in America.[6][7][8][9] In 2013, Maggie Walker was ranked 14th in Newsweek's "Best Public High Schools" [10] 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."[11]


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,[12] 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 15-16% of applicants are acceptedA into MLWGSGIS out of an average of 1200[13] applicants from all the participating localities, making the freshmen class usually around 190. 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.[14]


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[citation needed], as well as pro football Hall-of-Famer Willie Lanier[citation needed], 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 a number of other well-respected universities, including many in the Ivy League and Federal Service Academies.[15] 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 2146 for the Class of 2014.[15]

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,[16] 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 Linear Algebra, and a variety of science classes including AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Physics and AP Environmental Science, as well as Anatomy and Physiology, Genetics, Forensic Chemistry, Meteorology, Astronomy, Biopsychology (dual enrollment), and Introduction to Engineering (dual enrollment).

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.[17] 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 international law, economics, military history, photojournalism, food preparation, 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 115 hours at their mentorship site, working at places such as The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Democratic campaign offices, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, art galleries, bakeries, 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.[18]

Community service[edit]

To foster community improvement efforts, all Governor's School students are required to complete 140 hours of community service by graduation.[19] 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.[20]


MLWGS competes in the AA East in AA Conference 33 of the Virginia High School League.[21] Previously the school was in the AAA Colonial District, but at the end of the 2013 season was moved down to AA due to its small student population. With fewer than 700 students, MLWGS was 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. However, there are few Group A schools within a reasonable driving distance of the school. Maggie Walker had previously played in AAA in order to play alongside the other Richmond-area schools, but officials opted to move the school down after concluding that there were enough AA schools within a reasonable 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.[22] 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.[23] In 2010, the Maggie Walker girls' cross country team became the state runner-up in the AAA championship.[24] 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. In 2013-14 The Boys' and Girls' Cross Country Teams won first place in their respective AA sections and so did the Boys' and Girls' indoor Track teams. The Boys' Outdoor Track team also won First in that season. Also, the Girls' Swim team won their section in 2013-14. In 2015-2016, the Baseball team finished in 3rd at the AA state tournament to go along with a team record 17 wins, while the Girls' Soccer team finished 2nd.[25] Swim team again won VHSL championships in 2017, this time both in the Boys' and Girls' categories.

Beginning in 2014, the Mens' Tennis Team has established Maggie Walker as a dominant tennis school. Led by coach Jennifer Todd and strong starters Karl Katlaps and Pierce Tarry, the team has won three consecutive state titles, from 2014-2016. On April 18, 2016, for the first time in school history, the team defeated local rival Mills E. Godwin, 5-4, as well as Douglas S. Freeman High School.

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[26] 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 – The Maggie Walker We the People team is one of the school's oldest and most successful organizations, having taken first every year it has competed at States and routinely finishing in the Top Ten at Nationals. Taught as a course offering, We the People instruction prepares students to argue over major constitutional questions in American history before a panel of judges. Only seniors are allowed to apply (with the exception of the 2011-12 team, which also accepted juniors), with about half of applicants selected to join the team. The adviser to the team had been 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 under the leadership of Government teacher and MLWGSGIS We The People alumnus Sam Ulmschneider.
Year State Competition National Competition Spirit Guide
2003 Champions Champions Sorrentino
2004 Champions Second Place Sorrentino
2005 Champions Third Place Sorrentino
2006 Champions Fifth Place Sorrentino
2007 Champions Fifth Place Sorrentino
2008 Champions Second Place Sorrentino
2009 Champions Fourth place McGuire
2010 Champions Third Place McGuire
2011 Champions Champions McGuire
2012 Champions Second Place McGuire
2014 Champions Third Place Ulmschneider
2015 Champions Second Place Ulmschneider
2016 Champions Fifth Place Ulmschneider
2017 Champions Champions Ulmschneider

  • 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, and is currently coached by Hana Reed. Earlier coaches have included Ken Wilkins and Hal Waller, the former director of the Governor's School Foundation.
  • National History Bowl in its inaugural year.[27]
  • Model UN – Consistently ranked as one of the top high school teams in the nation. Hosts GSMUN, an annual conference that regularly raises over $10,000 for charity partners and has featured prominent keynote speakers such as former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, and former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.
  • Model Congress - Multiple Individual and Team Awards. This year's conference was led by Andrew McCullough ('17).
  • 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. The team currently competes in two categories: Lincoln Douglas debate and Public Forum debate.
  • Foreign Affairs Club – Members discuss foreign affairs and foreign policy in a roundtable setting. Currently sponsored by Dr. Brenda Ericson.
  • National High School Fed Challenge[28]
  • Appalachian Heritage Music Club[29] - A Maggie L. Walker Governor's School tradition, the AHMC provides students an outlet for their twangy mountain tunes. This club has become famous within Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for annually performing at the school's Fall Festival and selling chocolate-bacon products at the same event.[30]
  • 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.[31]
  • Technology Student Association (TSA )- Top high school chapter in the state 1999–2000, multiple individual and team awards thereafter
  • 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.
  • Photography Club[29] - The MLWGS Photo club provides students in the school's photography classes to exchange ideas with one another and with those who share an extra-curricular love for photography.

Dual enrollment[edit]

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[edit]


A This number is calculated by dividing the 2016-2017 enrollment of 758[1] by 4 for an average class size of about 190, then dividing that number into the same year's applicant pool of 1200[13] to get a percentage between 15 and 16 percent.


  1. ^ a b "Why choose MLWGS?" Maggie Walker Governor's School. Retrieved on 2017-05-18.
  2. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  3. ^ "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 19 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies". National Trust for Historic Preservation. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  5. ^ "Mission and Vision". Maggie L Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  6. ^ Newsweek (May 8, 2006) The Public Elites. Archived November 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. Newsweek Magazine. Retrieved on 2006-11-17.
  7. ^ Newsweek (May 28, 2007) The Public Elites. Archived June 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Newsweek Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-08-07.
  8. ^ Newsweek (June 8, 2009) The Public Elites
  9. ^ Newsweek (June 13, 2010) America's Best High Schools: The Elites. Newsweek Magazine. Retrieved on 2010-11-16.
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ Maggie Walker Governor's School (June 5, 2010) Admissions Process Retrieved on 2010-09-05.
  13. ^ a b "Admissions" Maggie Walker Governor's School. Retrieved on 2017-05-18.
  14. ^ Maggie Walker Governor's School: Overview. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
  15. ^ a b Maggie Walker Governor's School (June 5, 2010) Graduates Information & Statistics. Retrieved on 2010-09-05.
  16. ^ Maggie Walker Governor's School (June 5, 2010) Course Catalog. Retrieved on 2010-09-05.
  17. ^ Maggie Walker Governor's School (June 5, 2010) Academic Information. Retrieved on 2010-09-05.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Maggie Walker Governor's School: Diploma Requirements. Retrieved on 2010-09-05.
  20. ^ Maggie Walker Governor's School: Graduates Information & Statistics. Retrieved on 2010-09-05.
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Athletics". Maggie L Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  23. ^ VHSL. "Boys' Cross Country" (PDF). Virginia High School League. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  24. ^ VHSL. "Girls' Cross Country" (PDF). Virginia High School League. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "2010-2011 State Bowl Results". The National History Bowl. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  28. ^ "High School Fed Challenge". Federal Reserve Education. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  29. ^ a b
  30. ^
  31. ^

External links[edit]