Celebrating the 2019-20 Opening Day of School

The excitement of starting our 114th school year was palpable at GPS's opening assembly and the day’s events.
Keeping with tradition, yesterday morning the seventh- through 11th-graders found their places in Frierson Theatre and stood to hug friends who ambled in before the assembly officially kicked off just before 8 a.m. Once the music began over the sound system, the members of the Class of 2020 entered from the back of the theater to the tune of The Jackson Five’s “ABC” while their underclassmen cheered and celebrated the Grand Old Seniors’ last first day at GPS.

After a brief welcome from Head of School Dr. Autumn A. Graves, the faculty members paraded into Frierson while Abba’s “Dancing Queen” got everyone up out of their seats and dancing.

And then, the much-anticipated Class of 2026, our sixth-grade babies, marched in to raucous cheers and applause to celebrate their very first opening day at GPS. As in years past, High School Musical’s theme song, “We’re All in This Together,” helped everyone get excited for the year to come.

Dr. Graves gave a short sentiment to convey her hopes for lots of laughter, dancing, silliness, pure joy, and perhaps future Sonic runs this school year. “We are so happy we get to walk alongside you and guide you,” she said. “I hope that this will be a year where you truly feel and understand your purpose and place within our community because each of you belongs here, and we are so excited that we get to be with you this year.”

GPS Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Becca Stimson ’73 then addressed the students and faculty and briefly explained the role of the board. “First and foremost, we are a group of people who care deeply about this school and to whom the future financial sustainability has been entrusted,” she said. “We are alums, parents, past parents, grandparents, and friends. What we have in common is our belief in the GPS mission to educate girls and prepare them to become citizens of the world.”

Head of Middle School Lynne Macziewski shared a prayer written by Jane Henegar, GPS faculty emeritus and former English teacher. “Today we stand on the brink of an irreplaceable day, of a year that is ours only once, and though the rains come, I know we dwell in a place of blessing,” she read. “We dwell together in the richest of landscapes, ideas, opportunities, creativity. Help us to focus whatever the distraction. We reach and take this year from Your loving hand and we give thanks.”

Dr. Graves spoke to the girls to share her own children’s reaction to the first day of school before saying, “Happy new year. Happy first day of school. Please just be you. That’s the only person you’re going to be able to do really well.”

She then introduced our newest faculty and coaches, including someone who worked in the Peace Corps in Africa, who was a professional musician, who worked on the Mars Rover. Dr. Graves also explained some changing roles within our community. To read the article with a list and photos of our new teachers, click here.

Those students experiencing their first day of school at GPS were asked to stand by grade while their classmates cheered them on. Then it was on to announce the significant scholarships given to members of the junior and senior classes in honor of our three Founders.

Astra Burke ’20 was presented with the Grace McCallie Scholarship, awarded to the rising senior who has maintained the highest GPA during her Upper School years. The Duffy-Jarnagin Scholarship is awarded annually to the rising junior with the highest GPA at the end of her sophomore year who also exhibits the qualities of the ideal GPS student, as envisioned by the co-founders. The recipient should be “a highly respected member of her class, have integrity beyond question and be loyal to the school.” Both Lily DuPlooy ‘21 and Maggie Parsley ’21 received this award. Please click here to read the story about their awards and accomplishments.

Theme of the Year
Like the classes before them, the incoming senior class leaders were charged with selecting a theme for the school year. In choosing a theme, the seniors select a word or phrase that not only represents their class but also encompasses the entire student body. No small feat, but the seniors rose to the challenge and selected a theme that will serve them well. 

At opening assembly, two representatives of the Class of 2020 instrumental in selecting the theme—Kshama Patel, Chairwoman of Senior CLC, and Alex Center, senior Student Council representative—along with Jenise Gordon, Head of Upper School, presented the theme of the year to the student body and faculty.

YOU’RE INVITED. Quite simple at first glance and yet profoundly moving upon deeper contemplation. What better way to communicate to each other the message of belonging here? In other words, students, YOU’RE INVITED: to be yourself, to embrace others for who they are, and to see and know others despite your differences. You’re invited to try new things, make new friends, ask for help, put yourself out there. You’re invited to thrive, to sing, to dance, to love and to be loved. You’re invited. And, you belong here.

“Throughout the years, our class has struggled to figure out who we are,” Alex Center ’20 said, “because there is definitely no ‘one thing.’ We are state champion soccer players and cross country runners. We are performers on stage and behind the curtains. We are Wyldlife leaders and Amnesty chairs. We shine in the classroom, on the courts, and out in the community. As do all girls at GPS. As a class, we all connect, despite all of our differences.”

Kshama Patel, Chairwoman of the Senior Class Leadership Council, continued with her thoughts on the theme. “However, you can feel connected to a place or a group of people, but feeling seen, known, and accepted, and knowing you belong is most important and meaningful.”

Banners with inspirational quotes were hung in the Middle and Upper School drives and will remain for the school year. Stickers will be distributed in Advisory for girls to place on laptops, notebooks, water bottles as a reminder of this year’s theme.

To see the seniors share their thoughts on the theme, they recorded this quick video at their senior dinner at Founders House last weekend.

At the conclusion of the opening assembly, the students were dismissed to take their places along the lawn and in the Upper School to ceremoniously watch the freshman class walk the sidewalk from Middle to Upper School as Ms. Macziewski gave them a warm sendoff. Led by Drs. Graves and Stimson and welcomed by Ms. Gordon, they entered the Upper School from a sidewalk lined by seniors to be greeted by their sophomore and junior sisters.

After the walk across the lawn, students enjoyed free time to gather, reconnect, catch up, while our sixth-grader Rats spent time with their senior Cats. Then it was off to an abbreviated class schedule while our sixth-graders spent the day becoming accustomed and acquainted with their new school and how to get around.

Photos of opening day festivities are available on our GPS SmugMug account where you can download photos for free or order prints directly from SmugMug at a small fee. Watch the video of the opening assembly here.