GPS Seniors Inducted into Cum Laude

Nine receive school's highest honor.
As we prepare to send the Class of 2019 out into the college world, we first recognize and install our newest members into Cum Laude Society. Nine seniors join the company of their high-achieving sisters before them as their chosen faculty members pay tribute to their time at GPS. Gathered in Frierson Theatre to witness this honor are friends, family, classmates, and teachers who share in the celebration of this day.

Upper School English teacher and Cum Laude Committee member Katy Berotti welcomed those in attendance. “The National Cum Laude Society was organized more than a century ago to recognize extraordinary scholastic achievement in secondary schools,” Berotti said. “Each girl we induct today earned this honor by excelling in rigorous GPS courses. Today we honor them for their achievement in leading GPS as academic scholars.”

While the girls represent a diversity of outside interests and pursuits, all are members of National Honor Society and Beta Club. The induction included a speech for each girl from a faculty member, who was selected prior to the event by the student to speak at her behest.

Amal Ali | Emory University | Dr. Steve Harrison

Amal Ali will leave GPS for Emory University this fall and was introduced by her AP U.S. Government and AP European History teacher Dr. Steve Harrison. Amal is a leader in Amnesty International and a member of Model UN and Mock Trial.

Dr. Harrison described Amal as driven and amazingly competitive. “In review for AP Euro, we were going to play a game, but her friends said Amal wasn’t allowed,” he said. ”Her father says she understands the difference between daily trifles and important principles. Mrs. (Callie) Hamilton calls her a news junkie, and I know this is true because I’ve seen how she wants to know everything that is going on in the world. She is driven by a sense of justice.”

From a shy five-year-old who refused to speak in school because of her accent to a teenager known for her character as much as her academic achievements, Amal chose to devote her Chapel Talk to speak about discrimination within the justice system. Last year she was selected to recite an excerpt from one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches for city leaders on MLK Day.

“She cares, not only about her friends, but about people whom she has never, and will never, meet,” Harrison said. “As someone recently told me, ‘she is hard to get to know, but it’s worth the effort.’ I wholeheartedly agree.”

Olivia Combs | Brandeis University | Mr. Keith Sanders
While still exploring her options for what field of study to pursue once she leaves GPS, Olivia Combs is headed to Brandeis University, a private research school in Waltham, Massachusetts, to plan her path. At GPS she is a member of Honors Orchestra, Model UN, and Amnesty International. A musician, actress, singer, and scholar, Olivia was recognized as a Commended Student in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program.

“As a child directing and performing with her sister and cousins, Olivia would carefully and logically explain why her way was the best way,” said science teacher Keith Sanders. “She now recognizes the importance in ‘listening to the voices of others.’ Leaders have the ability to be introspective and confront their own uncertainties. Friends notice how Olivia’s strength of character and dedicated work ethic lead to amazing accomplishments.”

Her teachers describe her as possessing a “breadth of intellect” and being a “beast of a student.” Science teacher Sonya Steele’s fondest memory of Olivia is her playing the ukulele and singing “Over the Rainbow” one evening at Lula Lake. History teacher Jordan McCarter notes that Olivia's experience in the Chattanooga as Text summer program helped her to develop a sense of community in all of her endeavors. And every group has been better for it.

“Whatever ultimately wins her focus, simply following Olivia's exploits in her search for the unconventional will be an E ticket ride for anyone paying attention,” said Sanders.

Corley Compton | Berry College | Mrs. Erin Davis Sizemore ’98

Before Corley Compton leaves GPS for Berry College this fall to study nursing, her neuroscience and anatomy and physiology teacher, Erin Sizemore, did the honors of welcoming her to Cum Laude. A rower and member of Health Club and Kaleidoscope (yearbook) staff, Corley is described by Sizemore as one of the most attentive students she has ever encountered.

“In the classroom, Corley is always on task and extremely focused, comprehending the complexities of human physiology in such an advanced way for someone her age,” Sizemore said. “If there is something she doesn’t understand, she will ask and we will discuss until she does. Her love of understanding, and not just learning, is both mature and admirable.”

A skilled problem-solver, proficient at dissecting and solving the most complex mathematical questions and equations, Corley is heralded by her AP BC Calculus teacher, Mr. Chris Zeller as “a model student who exhibits sincere passion toward being successful in the classroom”—something evident to both him and Corley’s peers “as they often look to her for insight when working on more challenging problems.”

In addition, Corley has always had creative talents, particularly in music and dance. “It is this well-honed ability and work ethic that has allowed her to create and develop in our Motion Makers program, dance, and choreography classes,” Sizemore said, while also praising Corley’s support system of family and teachers. “This network is strong and has never wavered.”

Kylie Eiselstein | University of Southern California | Mr. Chris Zeller

This fall Kylie Eiselstein will become a Presidential Scholar to the Honors Thematic Film School at the University of Southern California, parlaying her passion for film into a field of study. She’s a member of Model UN and Film Criticism Club. As a captain of the GPS varsity soccer team that won state this year, Kylie was also named to the All-State Team.

She chose her AP BC Calculus teacher, Chris Zeller, to introduce her. “This multifaceted Bruiser excels in all areas of life, whether it be in the classroom, the soccer field, or the world of theater and film,” Zeller said. “This confident woman pursues all that she does with great zeal, knowing she will persevere with her can-do attitude.”

Her mother shared with Zeller “that even as a toddler, Kylie would strut around looking for some butt to kick,” a level of determination still evident today in all the endeavors that Kylie pursues.

“Kylie has made an extremely meaningful impact on our school,” Zeller continued. “While her accomplishments are many, her friends and family know not to take this witty and sarcastic student too seriously. I know we are all extremely proud of what she has accomplished, and we look forward to witnessing what all she will accomplish in the years to come.”

Brianna House | University of Georgia | Mrs. Callie Hamilton

In sixth grade, Brianna House and her father began visiting the homes of American presidents and vice presidents. “She’s fascinated with those who have inhabited the White House,” said Callie Hamilton, Brianna’s Social Justice in Action teacher, who then began to sing an original take on the song “Our House”:

Our House, in the middle of our school,
Our House, she deals in logic, that’s the rule,
Our House, she’s a scholar to her core,
Our House, I promise I won’t sing any more.

Brianna is a member of Amnesty International, Mock Trial, and Christian Forum. She is also a member of the Varsity Cross Country and Lacrosse Teams. Hamilton describes her as having a rock-solid foundation.  

“Grounded on equal parts faith, family, friends, and hope, Brianna’s architecture rises up, scaffolded by dedication and propelled skyward by her conviction that elevation is intended,” Hamilton said. Other teachers describe Brianna as intentional, hard-working, committed. She plans to one day study law, but first she will study political science and economics at the University of Georgia.

“In Mock Trial she coached witnesses, parsed her case, controlled the direction of inquiry, and won Best Attorney,” Hamilton said. “She personifies grace under pressure. You see, our gently ferocious Brianna likes to win: in the courthouse, on the lacrosse field, in the classroom. Dissenting opinions, penetrating insights, considered civil discourse are her craftsman’s mark.”

Hamilton praised her student for being a “scholar, an optimist, a servant, a fighter, a friend, a daughter, a dear student” before welcoming her to the “neighborhood” of Cum Laude.

Lane Lawrence | Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology | Mr. Bryant Haynes, president of Cum Laude

A Commended Student in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program and a captain of this year’s state champion soccer team, Helenah “Lane” Starr Lawrence is headed to the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology where she will continue her soccer career. Lane, who kicked the state-winning goal for the Bruisers, also played in the Olympic Development Program.

Lane came to GPS as a freshman and quickly embraced the academic rigor of her classes. She chose her honors physics teacher, Bryant Haynes, to induct her into Cum Laude. Haynes then took the opportunity to don a tall red and white striped hat while reading a Seussian-style poem he crafted.

“Starting ninth grade in this place wasn’t easy,
The Math and the English sometimes made her queasy.
And Bruiser Athletics was always an item,
Though studies came first, time ad infinitum.”

Lane is a member of Amnesty International, SWENext (Society of Women Engineers’ youth club), and Film Criticism clubs. During his introduction, Haynes lauded Lane’s soccer accomplishments, explained the name she inherited from her grandmothers, and poked fun at how she might fare at Rose-Hulman:

“And now, Dearest Lanie, you’re Rose-Hulman bound,
A technical school where few women are found.
In social endeavors, your ‘chances’ are broad,
Your odds can be good, but the ‘goods’ can be odd.”

In conclusion, Haynes said:

“We’re proud of you, Lane, for the work you’ve pursued,
And shortly your time at this place you’ll conclude.
So, let me just say, ’fore we get all applaud-y,
Helenah Starr Lawrence, you’re now in Cum Laude!”

Ruchi Patel | Vanderbilt University | Mrs. Tracie Marlin Durham ’80

A Commended Student in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program, Ruchi Patel is a member of Amnesty International, Model UN, GPS Ambassadors, and Honors Orchestra. She is also a member of the varsity tennis team. She will continue her studies at Vanderbilt University this fall.

Her AP Biology teacher, Tracie Marlin Durham ’80, inducted Ruchi into Cum Laude, crafting a speech that paralleled the science of vision. “Ruchi receives the material that comes to her in class, takes it in, and intensely focuses that information into sharp comprehension,” Durham said.

Ruchi is also the president of the GPS Honor Council, a role that places her at times in a position to see her classmates in not the best light. “Sometimes Ruchi must look her peers directly in the eyes and tell them that what they did was not OK,” Durham explained. “She doesn’t focus only on the infraction, however. She searches for the reasons why they did what they did and counsels them on how to do better next time.”

With plans to study neuroscience at Vanderbilt, Ruchi has already demonstrated an acumen for the exactitude of science. “Ruchi’s responses in AP Biology show that she processes the details that others miss,” Durham said. “Mr. Haynes told me that he ‘could publish her work in a book’ because it is so thorough and complete. I feel this way, too.”

Durham concluded her introduction with a quote from Henry David Thoreau: The question is not what you look at, but what you see. “Ruchi, may you always see the best in the world.”

Carmen Resnick | University of Oregon | Mr. Mark Krawczyk

A member of Amnesty International, SWENext, Spanish Honor Society, and Mock Trial as well as a performer on the stage and in the classroom, Carmen Resnick will next leave her mark at the University of Oregon. Her theater teacher, Mark Krawczyk, had the honor of inducting her into Cum Laude.

He recalls first meeting her in Technical Theater class this past fall, when he joined the GPS faculty. “I encountered a young woman who was at times brash, passionate, and opinionated, but equally respectful, measured, and diplomatic as well as always, always searching, often in the dark.”

Krawczyk said Carmen’s mother, Shanti, recalls her saying at 2 1/2 years old: “Mama, I love the dark. The dark will take you deep into your heart.”

He praised Carmen for bravely exploring the proverbial dark—seeking answers, ruminating over a problem, “and unapologetically throwing out choices into the air of a rehearsal room, because she implicitly understands this is what one must fearlessly do to find what is on the other side of not-knowing, and that is the light,” Krawczyk said.

While Carmen embraced the roles of Fruma-Sarah in Fiddler on The Roof and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing this year, she also takes on challenging roles off-stage—a range of AP classes, honors societies, human rights groups, charitable causes, martial arts classes, piano lessons, theatrical and dance rehearsals, and more.

“In the Talmud it is written, ‘One man’s candle is light for many,’” said Krawczyk. “Carmen Resnick’s light burns like a signal pyre from the summit of every height she reaches, heralding a new dawn to the world entire. Carmen Valentina Resnick, we welcome your light to Cum Laude.”

Charlotte Vance | Auburn University | Ms. Jenise Gordon

One could say that Charlotte Vance will leave an indelible mark on GPS when she leaves later this month. A varsity volleyball player and GPS Ambassador, Charlotte also belongs to the Spanish Honor Society, Tucker River Fellow, Computer Science Club, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Head of Upper School and her biology teacher, Jenise Gordon, inducted Charlotte into Cum Laude with a speech that paid homage to her fighting and free spirit and her love of the word ‘no’ that started in childhood.

“Charlotte is no longer a little girl, but her ‘no’ is still resonant,” Gordon said. “Hers remains the ‘no’ of fierce daring and self-determination. No, cancer, you will not get the best of me. No, I am not afraid to take on the most challenging course load. No, I will not pursue a traditional career.”

A self-proclaimed “sports junkie,” Charlotte will study at Auburn University beginning this fall with plans to become a statistical analyst for a NBA team. Her end goal: a general manager in the NBA, something no female has yet to achieve.

“Charlotte’s independent, free-spirit means she is also the first to say ‘yes’ to daring adventures,” Gordon continued. She has gone skydiving and traversed mountains in Colorado, Peru, and Patagonia, and she spent her Winterim in India with her classmates.

“Charlotte, from one adventurer to another, I challenge you to continue daring greatly,” Gordon said. “Say ‘no’ to those who doubt you and ‘yes’ to every big adventure that makes your world wider, your life richer, and your joy bigger.”

In closing of the Cum Laude ceremony, Berotti read “blessing the boats” by Lucille Clifton:

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back     may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

Berotti concluded by asking the crowd to stand and join in the singing of “The Alma Mater,” the GPS school song.

To see photos of Cum Laude, visit our SmugMug page where you can download images for free or order prints for a small fee.

To view the ceremony, visit our YouTube page