The South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities is a unique community where artistic students from across the state explore and grow their talents during their junior and senior years– but there are many common misconceptions about the residential high school.
“People are often surprised to find out we’re a public school,” says Christina Vandiver, public relations director. “The Governor’s School offers unique and life-changing opportunities that most students may not be able to find or have access to anywhere else, and any student in South Carolina who exhibits talent and passion for their art can apply to attend.”
Here are five things you may not know about the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities:
1. It’s a public school that’s completely tuition-free.
Not only can any 10th grade student in the state apply to attend the Governor’s School’s residential high school program, if they are accepted, tuition is free thanks to state funding.
The residential high school program serves 11th- and 12th-grade students who gain pre-professional training in music, dance, creative writing, drama or visual art. (A select number of 9th-graders can also apply to attend in the 10th grade for dance and music.)
All students live on campus, so there’s a cost for meal plans and small housing fee, but scholarships are available so that cost never becomes a barrier.
“Because we’re a public school, we have students from all backgrounds,” Vandiver says. “And because we’re tuition-free, students can pursue their dreams without worrying about whether they can afford it.”
2. Strong academics are as much of a priority as the arts.
While students are here to pursue their art, they’re also getting a top-notch academic education with small class sizes, one-on-one attention from faculty and advanced placement (AP) courses in 12 subjects.
The Washington Post named the Governor’s School one of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” based on how successfully school’s challenge students, and students’ standardized test scores are consistently higher than state and national averages.
“Because of our unique educational model, which combines academics with the arts and humanities, our students are highly sought after by colleges and universities,” said Vandiver. “Our Class of 2017 graduates, with only 102 students, received over $36 million in scholarship offers.”
3. The Governor's School is an arts education resource for the entire state.
Through a number of customized initiatives and programs, the school provides opportunities for students and teachers across South Carolina.
Some of these outreach programs include Read To Succeed, a summer camp for 3rd- and 4th-graders that enhances literacy through drama, and the Lowcountry Youth Dance Academy, a free pre-professional dance training program for 6th- through 10th- grade students, held in Summerville.
Also offered are professional development opportunities for teachers across the state and arts intensive summer programs for students for rising 9th- and 10th-graders.
And, of course, around 100 high-quality student performances are free to the public each year.
“We welcome the public to attend all of our performances and exhibits to experience first-hand the high caliber of talent from these young artists, many of whom will go on to become actors on Broadway, in primetime TV or in film, as well as exhibiting artists, published authors, and professional musicians or dancers performing around the world,” Vandiver says.
4. Students graduate with skills for any career path – and for adult life in general.
While about half of Governor's School graduates pursue careers in the arts, the other half go into everything from engineering and business to health care and education.
And because students live on campus, they quickly learn how to manage their time and motivate themselves – and even do their own laundry.
“The hardest thing for parents is letting go of their children,” Vandiver says. “But there’s this amazing amount of growth they see in their child in such a short period of time, and they quickly see how the soft skills they also gain here will help them succeed in college, in their careers and in life.”
5. Many successful Governor’s School graduates come from the Lowcountry.
Alumni go on to incredible conservatories and universities across the country, including Juilliard and Princeton, along with excellent schools across the state like Clemson and the USC honors program.
Notable alumni include Danielle Brooks, who plays Taystee in Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black; Rachel Inman, the lead designer for Google Maps; Jonathan Spigner, a leading dancer in the Hong Kong Ballet, and Malia Griggs, director of social media for the Daily Beast.
And many successful graduates are from right here in the Lowcountry, including Susan Heyward, a Broadway performer from Beaufort currently in the new Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and Caleb Vaughn-Jones, a world-renowned cellist from Charleston.
For more information about the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, located in Greenville, call (864) 282-3777 or visit SCGSAH.org.
Photographer credit: Carlyn Tucker