GPS Celebrates During Opening Ceremony for 2021-22

We begin our 116th school year with a focus on community and relationships.
This morning the seventh- through 11th-graders found their places in the Main Gym—a slight change from the usual Frierson Theatre gathering place to allow for a bit more distancing as a COVID precaution—and stood to hug friends and catch up on summer memories before assembly began. Music soon filled the gym, and the members of the Class of 2022 entered from the back to the tune of Taylor Swift’s “22” while their underclassmen cheered and celebrated the Grand Old Seniors’ last first day at GPS.

After a brief welcome from Head of Upper School Jenise Gordon, the faculty members paraded into the gym while “We’re All in This Together” from High School Musical—a crowd favorite—got everyone up out of their seats and cheering.

Next up, the much-anticipated Class of 2028, our sixth-grade babies, marched in to raucous cheers and applause to celebrate their very first opening day at GPS as “What a Girl Is” from Liv & Maddie played from the loudspeaker.

Following a prayer from Associate Head of School and Head of Middle School Lynne Macziewski, Head of School Megan Cover gave her opening remarks, sharing that her focus for the year would be on community and connection. 

“Faculty and staff join me in celebrating the unique gifts you students bring to school, on campus and off,” she said. “We will prioritize healthy connections and relationships, fostering a culture where you are known, you are heard, and you are empowered to use your voice. This culture of belonging and acceptance will nurture and lift you up, so you can find your place and discover your potential with confidence and joy.”

GPS Board of Trustees Chair, Clay Watson, father to seniors Clayton and Kennedy Watson, then addressed the students and faculty and briefly explained the role of the board and welcomed Cover to the GPS community. “We are a group of individuals made up of alums, current parents, past parents, future parents, grandparents, and friends of GPS. We come from all walks of life, but we have one thing in common: a passion for Girls Preparatory School and its mission of inspiring each girl.” 

He then addressed the sixth-graders specifically. “Your journey as a GPS student begins right now. You will meet new friends, learn new things, and enjoy new activities. Sometimes you will fail, but most of the time you will find success, and that’s all a part of the GPS experience. Believe it or not, your time here will fly by. Don’t be worried or scared. Embrace this new beginning, and enjoy the journey.” 

He also offered the graduating seniors words of advice. “Embrace the familiar and take advantage of the things that make GPS so special. Savor each moment with your friends, classmates, and even your teachers. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone else in your academic career who cares about you as much as these teachers.” 

Cover then introduced our newest faculty and coaches, as the crowd cheered. To read more about them, click here.

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

Lauren Thacker ’22 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.” Anisha Phade ’23 received this award. 

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 the opening assembly, four representatives of the Class of 2022, instrumental in selecting the theme—Olivia Burns, Willa Mirmelstein, Mary Kate Johnson, and Frances Crowe—along with Jenise Gordon, Head of Upper School, presented the theme of the year to the student body and faculty.

Building Bridges

Olivia, Charwoman of the Senior Leadership Council, explained the thought process behind the theme. “Entering our last year of high school caused us to realize just how little time we have left together. We feel that our class has truly persevered throughout this year, and we wanted the theme to reflect our actions. Part of the reason we were able to make a year filled with social distancing and masks fun was because of the tight bond of our class,” she said. “We decided that we didn’t want to pat ourselves on the back but that we wanted to set a goal for the school to work toward. We wanted to highlight the strengths of our class, like our connectedness, and work to spread that bond throughout the school and our broader community.”

Willa echoed Olivia’s sentiments. “Everyone’s journey through GPS is so different, but regardless of how long it takes to cross the metaphorical bridge to college and the rest of life, everyone’s journey is valid. As we cross our bridges toward the next phase of life, we hope that you will walk in companionship with each other, respecting everyone’s way of getting across.”

Frances issued a challenge to the entire student body. “We want everyone to build new relationships and help tighten our community, whether that means extending a helping hand to someone who needs it on your soccer team, talking to a new freshman who looks lost in the hallway, or just taking the time to have a conversation with other students you never got the chance to get to know before.”

Mary Kate explained that the theme drew from the value of respect, saying, “One of the things that makes GPS great is that even if we possess conflicting opinions or ideals from one another, we do our best to respect our classmates and remain sisters. We are able to build bridges between people who share similar and different opinions to us, and those bridges we build are formed on the foundation of respect. Respecting one another does not mean that we have to disregard our differences. Rather, it means that we embrace the ways in which we are different, allowing us to open our eyes to new perspectives.”

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.

Class Officer Installation

In closing, the installation of class officers took place. Katie Outlaw, Middle School Dean of Students, spoke to the students about leadership and their responsibilities to their classmates as their elected representatives.

Honor Council | Sworn in by Erin Davis Sizemore ’98, Dean of the Upper School
Frances Crowe, president
Seniors | Manasa Makam and Emma Hamilton
Juniors | Meghan Boehm and Hannah Grace Kornberg
Sophomores | Caroline Breazeale and Ella Harris
Freshmen | Ani Bhushan and Kendall Ownby

Student Council | Sworn in by Kate Kerekes, Dean of the Freshman Class
Mary Kate Johnson, president
Seniors | Ally Daniel, Emmy Richey, Demi Stribling and Ellie Taliaferro 
Juniors | Caroline Clark, Megan Jones, Abigail Mann, and Keller Williamson
Sophomores | Scout Chapin, Emmaline Hill, and Jenna Naik
Freshmen | Khadeeja Agha, Ellison Ball, Gwyneth Parks

Partnerships in the Community | Sworn in by Tiffany Simms ’03, PIC Advisor
Willa Mirmelstein, president
Seniors | Olivia Scotchie, JC Wiedmer, and Clayton Watson
Juniors | Rowan Espy, Morgan Summerlin, and Hayden Wise
Sophomores | Hoda Alameddine and Abigail Carpenter
Freshmen | Charlotte Parsley and Ella Beth Wiedmer

Freshmen Walk Across the Lawn

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 Class of 2025 walk the sidewalk from Middle to Upper School as Ms. Macziewski gave them a warm sendoff. Led 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, and catch up. 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, which included an afternoon scavenger hunt.

In the afternoon? Ice cream to celebrate a successful first day!

Here’s to the girls and the teachers, coaches, and support team who lead and love them so well. Here’s to the 2021-22 school year!

Watch the video of the opening assembly here.