Summer Residential Governor’s Schools


Jeanne Minetree

Students at the Governor’s School for Medicine and Health Sciences are presented with a white lab coat after convocation.

Before you make plans to lounge around all summer doing nothing, consider what the Virginia Department of Education offers with its Summer Residential Governor’s School programs.

Virginia allows high school students a unique academic enrichment opportunity with their Summer Residential Governor’s School program. At each school, participants spend four weeks taking challenging classes, gaining experience in their chosen area of study, and talking and working with professionals in careers across the field. Five schools are offered around Virginia, each with a different area of study: agriculture, humanities, mathematics/science/technology, medicine and health sciences, and visual and performing arts. In addition to the academic structure programs, the Governor’s School offers two mentorships through Christopher Newport University, one at NASA and the other at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. All schools focus on learning and experience, but their individual activities differ according to the subject material; for example, art students play in ensembles to improve their musicianship, humanities students study literature and current affairs, and medicine students perform labs and shadow in a hospital setting.

Each Governor’s School program is run through a Virginia university, and students spend four weeks living in dorms and working on-campus. This allows selected students to get a taste of college life and classes- all while still in high school. Tuition and board is also paid for through the state and school system, with only program-specific activity fees required for students to pay.

These programs are excellent academic opportunities for students, but what is it really like going to a Governor’s School? Here’s what Mencvhille’s former participants had to say:

Alex Kropp, Visual and Performing Arts: Music

“Governor’s School for Visual and Performing Arts was a blast, especially being surrounded by people who were completely immersed and invested in music as I was. Everyone there had something special about them, and it was a great way to make lifelong friends. It felt like being a college student for a month- we had classes and different ensembles, and we were introduced to a spectrum of music, as well as different forms of art. It was the best month of my life, hands-down.”

Jeanne Minetree
Students stand around the medical mannequin they just saved with CPR and electric shock from a coding situation.

Laura Madler, Medicine and Health Sciences

I applied to the Medicine and Health Sciences program as a sophomore and attended this past summer. This particular program only takes 26 students from around the state, so we formed a very close-knit group as compared to the other schools with hundreds of kids. While I was there, every waking moment we were off doing some activity. We had class every day of the week from 8 am to 4 or 5 pm, which consisted of labs and lectures- I think our record was five labs in a day, so we definitely had a lot of work to do every night. The school divides students into 3 rotating groups that focus on a different aspect of medicine (diagnostics and treatment, lab testing and pathology, and epidemiology and community awareness) in relation to a central case study. All of the students had to work together, researching and making tough decisions while diagnosing and treating a fake patient (whose condition could change at the drop of a hat- or at least whenever our teacher felt like keeping us on our toes). The program is so immersive, and when I was frantically trying to interpret an EEG graph on the bus or read an MRI with my group in the middle of the night, it really felt like handling a real patient. The lectures and shadowing opportunities were incredible, and we still had time for a little bit of fun in between all the hectic labs and cases, but most of all, I left the program feeling like I learned and assured myself of my passion for medicine, and that made all the late nights worth it.

Students interested in attending a Governor’s School should talk to their guidance counselor to make arrangements for application and entrance testing. Application forms for each school can be found on the Virginia Department of Education website, and must be completed and turned in before February 26 of 2019. Students may only apply to one school, and anyone who has attended a Governor’s School residential program in the past cannot apply again. The deadline for contacting guidance about applying to the Visual and Performing Arts School is November 20th, as there is an audition process involved.