Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School (WLGOS), one of the oldest and most reliable continuing education schools in South Carolina, celebrates its 100th Anniversary this year.

The school, established by Dr. Wil Lou Gray in 1921, has served more than 35,000 students. Dr. Gray started the school because she saw a need for children to go to school following planting and harvesting crops. Gray is one of three women with their portrait hanging in the South Carolina State House.

As an agency of state government, the school has students enrolled from around the state, and provides a wealth of academic and life skills training by S.C. state-certified teachers in modern classroom settings. While not a traditional high school, WLGOS ranks as the fifth oldest high school in the state.

The 14-week overnight boarding school boasts an incredible graduation rate with most students, 65 percent going into the workforce; however, 25 percent go to college and about 10 percent enlist in the armed services.

“We have had some graduates go on to become doctors and teachers but most will become part of our state’s growing workforce,” said Pat Smith, WLGOS agency director. “It’s important we equip them with the education, skills and work ethic to contribute immediately. We view this centennial as an incredible milestone, but also as a bridge to how we will prepare our students in this ever-changing work environment.”

Smith, who has been with the school since 1975, says Dr. Gray focused on continuing education and coined “Why stop learning?” In addition to graduating with G.E.D.s, students can learn digital art and design, forklift safety training, building construction, automotive technology and occupational health and safety certification.

The 87-acre school became a state agency in 1957 and turned into a quasi-military school in 1998. All students attend free of charge and must adhere to a strict curriculum designed to create a well-rounded, respectful, and accountable graduate.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school is delaying the Centennial Celebration until further notice. However, the school, students, teachers and supporters will have other celebrations and recognitions throughout this year.

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About WLGOS: Created to make educational and vocational training available in a residential environment to persons 16 to 19 years old who are at risk of not completing their high school education. The program is delivered in a quasi-military environment, emphasizing academics, self-discipline, and community service. Graduating students earn a G.E.D.


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