Eighth-Grade Celebration Unites the Class of 2024 for the Close to the School Year

Virtual evening ceremony celebrates eighth-graders on their completion of Middle School
Celebrated, certificated, and charged—our eighth-graders have completed Middle School and are ready to cross the lawn to the Upper School!

In a virtual celebration Thursday evening, the Class of 2024 reflected upon their GPS Middle School experience with eager anticipation of the next four years of Upper School.

Welcome by Lynne Macziewski, Head of Middle School
Ms. Lynne Macziewski, Head of Middle School, welcomed those in attendance. “This evening we gather to celebrate the talents, hard work, growth, and accomplishments of each and every girl in the class of 2024, and we could not be more excited to do so.”

Class Speeches by selected members of the Class of 2024
Following Macziewski’s welcome, those gathered watched a video of speeches of selected eighth-graders who were representatives of their class. Ms. Jordan McCarter ’96, Eighth-Grade Class Dean, introduced the speakers who “were selected for their (English) essays’ thoughtfulness and their reflections of what students share as the quintessential middle school life at GPS.” The video was curated by Mrs. Lindsey King, their English teacher.

“Each year our girls have the opportunity in English class to craft a narrative essay that reflects on their middle school experience,” McCarter said. “Girls share what they have learned and what they have loved in middle school.”

Eighth-grade speakers included Linley Zahrobsky, Lee Lee Heald, Scout Chapin, Emmaline Hill, Sophia Pollard, Gigi Breazeale, Gracie Pritchett, Mary Mueller, and Isabella Terc, and each girl talked about learning to grow, the little moments, and sisterhood.

Linley: GPS isn’t just a school. It isn’t just a building. It isn’t just an education. It’s a privilege. It’s a sisterhood. It’s a family.

Lee Lee: I’ve learned that meeting other people can change your lives; this sisterhood shapes who you are and who you’re meant to be. 

Scout: After my first few classes, I began to speed walk to SHAPE because being late is my worst nightmare. There this girl is again, jogging beside me.
“Hey, Scout right?” 
“Yah, aren’t we locker buddies?”
“Yup. I’m Abby, by the way. Do you want to sit with us at lunch?”
“I would love to!” Since then, I have sat with Abby almost every day at lunch. Because of her initial kindness, I have the greatest friends I could ever have asked for.

Emmaline: The first day of seventh grade was so fun. All of the eighth-graders were in their hallway playing music and dancing, and they came down and got all the seventh- and sixth-graders. We were all just dancing and singing. We weren’t worried about anything at that moment. The whole middle school came together, even some of the teachers joined in. That night I remember thinking, “Wow, this year isn’t going to be too bad.”

Sophia: Picture this: You’re walking toward Mrs. Brock’s classroom for the first art class of seventh grade, excited to learn new drawing and painting techniques. There’s an empty seat next to a girl you have never talked to before. Eager to make new friends, you take that seat and ask the girl what her name is. This is how I met my best friend, Kinsley. Ever since then, we became inseparable. Poor Mrs. Brock had to deal with Kinsley and me laughing and talking to each other instead of shading or painting for the rest of the year. 

Gigi: We’re on our way home from eighth-grade Winterim when the buses pull over to combine into one. “This ought to be interesting,” I mumbled. Over 80 people were about to ride on a single bus, but we made it work. Nothing proves sisterhood like riding three to a seat on a bus for two hours. I remember looking around the bus and seeing everyone packed so tightly.  

In this sisterhood, we love and reach out to each other. In this sisterhood, we support and make sacrifices. In this sisterhood, we are not afraid to squeeze on a bus. In fact, we do it while laughing and smiling because our bond here is like no other. Looking back on these memories, I see how much my life has changed because of GPS. I am confident in myself. I have learned how to love and laugh with other people. And most of all, I have learned to cherish the memories of our sisterhood because it’s only found at GPS.

Gracie: Our class's selflessness is evident through small acts of kindness such as daily compliments, holding the door for each other while we lug around backpacks, random hallway hugs that release stress from any upcoming events, or even just living in the moment and updating each other on our crazy lives. I will never forget the various times that I have been stressed out about a certain event that day, and my closest friends would give me a warm hug to calm my nerves. Without this truly amazing group of girls, I wouldn't be half of the person I am today. 

Mary: My middle school life at GPS taught me a lot. It made me have more courage to be who I am around others whether they are my friends or someone I don’t know at all. GPS so far has taught me that it is alright to be different and to not act like someone you are not around people who are different than you. Be yourself and you will find your true friends. Although I am a little nervous to move forward to my high school career I see great things coming for our class. 

Isabella: Today I look back at all these “small things” but see them as something bigger and more valuable and precious. Due to the coronavirus I don’t get to see my friends every day at school and laugh with them. I don’t get to go May Day practice twice a week to get ready to perform for the seniors and laugh about how bad we are at dancing. This pandemic makes these “small things” big memories, and I would do anything to have that time with them now. If it weren’t for GPS, I wouldn’t have my friends, and I also wouldn’t have these memories of our unique traditions that no other school does but we value so much. Sometimes school is stressful or annoying but now that we are in quarantine, we all want to be at school with our classmates and teachers. I think after quarantine we will all value time so much more especially at school. 

Presentation of Certificates
After the speeches, Macziewski presented the certificates, which were mailed to their homes prior to the celebration, to each girl as a photo of the student in her white uniform, posing with her certificate came across the screen. She allowed students to cheer and celebrate their classmates as names were read. 

Charge to the Class by Dr. Autumn A. Graves, Head of School 
Following the presentation of certificates, Dr. Autumn A. Graves, Head of School, offered her charge to the class.

“This is the moment in the program where I am supposed to share my great wisdom that will propel you into a successful high school career,” Graves said. “As a leader, I believe in surrounding myself with people who are smarter than I am, wiser than I am, and more interesting than I am. Without question, the class of 2024 is smarter, wiser, and more interesting than I am.” 

She then offered four nuggets of wisdom: Be Welcoming. Be Brave. Be Not Afraid. Be Me. “I hope your family is paying attention,” she continued. “Since I won’t be here for your high school years, I am counting on them to remind you of these four ‘be’ statements when you are facing the ups and downs of growing up.”

Graves went on to remind the girls of a time before we left school for quarantine. “Lunchtime. The Dining Room. One table. Too many chairs. So much laughter. Girls on top of each other, barely able to eat. Or two or three girls in a booth who give an inviting glance to someone as she looks for a group with whom to have lunch. Both scenarios show me the value of always making room for one more—even if it makes you a little physically uncomfortable. Your heart is fully capable of expanding, if you let it. Be welcoming of new sisters.

“When I attend the Middle School musical, a Motion Maker’s performance, or a Middle School sporting event, I see your bravery to try something new in front of people you may not know—even if you are not great at it, yet. Be brave.

“When I see students in the STEM elective crash the drone or have their egg drop vehicle fall apart, run with full speed to see the destruction, examine the parts, and start over again, I love the confidence they have to start again. These moments remind me of a Henry Ford quote: ‘The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.’ And the girls I see are constantly learning something. Failure is a better teacher than success. Be not afraid to fail. 

“With your hair, fingernail polish art, shoes, locker decorations, and stickers on your water bottles, I am regularly reminded that a uniform does not stop one’s ability to be an individual. It’s not what you wear, but how you wear it. You show me to just be me with my sense of style!”

Be Welcoming of New Sisters
Be Brave
Be Not Afraid to Fail
Be Me

“I hope my highlighting the wisdom you already hold, shows you how prepared you are for high school and life beyond GPS,” Graves concluded. “It’s not your aptitude, but your attitude that will enable you to weather the highs and lows of high school, in a way, so when you finish, you will have a sense of your passions that will lead to your purpose. As long as you lead your life as a woman of integrity, honor, and purpose, you will be happy and successful.  

“As I close, I cannot help but give you a little advice: The Charge. I take it from a quote I found: Take pride in how far you have come. Have faith in how far you can go. Here’s to you, Girls Preparatory School Class of 2024!” 

Retrospective Video
Following the charge from Dr. Graves, a retrospective video, introduced by Mrs. Katie Outlaw, Middle School Dean of Students, was played that included a collection of photos and memories of the girls’ time in Middle School. 

“An important and the most fun part of our eighth-grade celebration is the retrospective,” Outlaw said. “From their first days at GPS as new sixth-graders in the Cat-Rat parade, all the way through their eighth-grade Winterim trip, we’ll get a chance to see how much these girls have grown, bonded, and formed lasting friendships over three years. I hope you enjoy watching this as much as I enjoyed making this for you. So get your box of tissues handy, and get ready to sing along, dance, laugh, and cry!”

The video highlighted some of the most meaningful moments of their three years at GPS—the trips, performances, sporting events, and everyday school life, where memories and friendships are made.

Closing Remarks by Ms. Lynne Macziewski, Head of Middle School
To close out the ceremony, Macziewski thanked the parents and guardians, siblings, and extended family members. “You have supported each of these girls during unprecedented times, encouraged them to persevere during challenging moments, and been their biggest cheerleaders along the way.” 

To the teachers she said, “You have created a wonderful learning environment where each girl is supported and loved for who she is and who she has the potential to be. You have enriched each girl’s life in myriad ways and cultivated her spirit each and every day.”

And, finally, to the girls she said, “Middle School is notorious for being one of the best times of life as well as one of the hardest times of life. You have shown strength and determination, love and generosity, grit and perseverance, and grace through it all. Over the past three years, we have watched you grow into strong and independent young women. We are so proud of you, Class of 2024. Here’s to the girls and here’s to you!” 

Congratulations, GPS Class of 2024, on your successful completion of Middle School! We can’t wait for August and the first day of the 2020-21 school year when you will take your “walk across the lawn” to officially mark the beginning of the next chapter in your GPS journey, Upper School!