Governor's school readies students for college and career experience

Professor David Castonguay with students

Voice Professor David Castonguay talks with students about some of the music they will be studying while at Governor's School.

For the fourth year in a row, Radford University had the privilege to host nearly 400 of the commonwealth's most talented high school students for the Virginia Summer Residential Governor's Schools in the Humanities and the Visual and Performing Arts.

Radford welcomed the exceptional students to campus on June 23 and invited them to spend nearly a month living, learning and working in a collegiate environment. The Governor's School experience emphasized free expression, intellectual curiosity, responsibility, maturity and mutual respect.

"Governor's School assembles truly outstanding students in their respective disciplines to come to study at an intensive level with other students of similar caliber," said Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts Joe Scartelli, one of the school's many faculty supporters and organizers. "The level of instruction and expectations exceeds a typical high school experience, significantly strengthening their preparation for university or conservatory study."

Students were accepted based on their academic records, test scores, extracurricular activities, honors and awards, creativity, original essays and teacher recommendations. Nominations came from teachers, guidance counselors, peers and even the students themselves.

Students in a playwright and directing class

Students in a playwright and directing class work together to decide who they would cast as their characters.

Since 2010, RU has been selected by the Virginia Department of Education to host the four-week program, which gives junior and senior high school students the opportunity to use their creativity in music, visual and performing arts and the humanities.

For the duration of the school, Radford is much more than a host venue due to the whole-hearted commitment of faculty and university students who teach and staff the programs, Scartelli said.

"Radford University is particularly suited for hosting these governor's schools  given our historical commitment to public education as well as the visual and performing arts and humanities," Scartelli said. "All are part of Radford's DNA and I believe the governor's school students have benefitted greatly over the years as a result."

For the summer program, students are divided between the RU College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Student Elizabeth Riley, 16, of Virginia Beach attended the Visual and Performing Arts program after hearing about it from several of her peers.

"My friends had done this program before and they told me that that although the classes are awesome, there is a bigger experience you take away from it," she said of her initial expectations.  "This is a peek at what college is going to be like and what it might be like in the real world."

Student director Elizabeth Riley watches her actors from the floor of Hawes Studio Theatre

Student director Elizabeth Riley watches her actors from the floor of Hawes Studio Theatre.

Making Riley's experience even more rewarding was the thought-provoking discussions among faculty and students. "Everyone here seems to have a deeper understanding of art than maybe a typical high school student," she said. "They all want to give 100 percent and the classes are challenging us to say something."

Another performing arts attendee, Rachel Buckland, 17, of Charlottesville said she was surprised but pleased by the levels of challenges set before her. Coming from a school where academic pursuits and football are top priorities, Governor’s School allowed her to pursue her interest in playwriting. "I had no idea what to expect coming here but on the first day they threw this assignment at us and said 'You're going to be writing a new play!'"

Buckland said her Governor's School experience exceeded expectations. Not only did she have the satisfaction of sharing her art with fellow attendees, but visiting Radford provided perspective on the opportunities available at the next level of education.

"Coming here to Radford has been my college counseling," she said, laughing. "Being here has helped me figure out possibilities for myself in the future, either in theater or maybe even in something else. We learned that being different or trying to do something different is not a crime."

For more information about the Virginia Summer Residential Governor’s School in the Humanities and the Visual and Performing Arts or to learn more about opportunities for next year's summer program at Radford University, call (540) 831-7828, or email

To see more photos of students at this year's Governor's School visit our photo gallery.

Learn more about Radford University at

Jul 16, 2013
Dan Waidelich
(540) 831-7749