GPS Celebrates During Opening Day Ceremony for 2023-24

A joyful start to the school year
Our 118th school year began today with a return to Frierson Theatre as together we celebrated the start of another great year. 

Head of School Megan D. Cover welcomed the seventh- through 11th-graders and urged everyone to stand up and cheer as the Grand Old Seniors entered the theater, followed by our faculty and staff. Next, 81 new sixth-graders entered the room to cheers and high-fives from upperclassmen.

Director of Belonging and Engagement and Dean of the Freshman Class Lauren Lawrence Swanson ’09 offered a prayer of gratitude to begin our year before Megan returned to the stage to offer her introductory remarks. She spoke about three women who brought women and girls together this summer—Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and Barbie—noting that GPS has its fair share of notable women, too.

“Think of our three Founders, our first GPS graduates, the thousands of alumnae who have gone on to impact their communities. But why the attention now? What makes this summer feel different with these women’s presences is not only their attracting huge crowds of supporters, but rather their courage to, not only demonstrate, but also celebrate their vulnerability, imperfections, risk-taking, and failures, and all their lessons learned along the way,” she said. “Their stories are not subjective but in fact reflect our shared humanity. Their stories, just like ours, are what bring us together to listen, learn, explore, empathize, discover, and grow.”

Next, she introduced the strategic plan, Empowering Girls for a Changing World: Investing in the Future of GPS and the three coinciding institutional goals for this year: Celebrating the Whole Girl, Celebrating Community and Connection, and Celebrating and Stewarding GPS for a Robust Future.

Megan concluded her speech by saying, “My hope for each of you is that you aspire to run the world like Beyonce, are fearless like Taylor, and, like Barbie, have the best day ever, today and every day this school year. … I look forward to celebrating YOU as we learn more about your stories and together we will bloom and grow on our journey this year.”

Next to speak was Amy Arrowsmith, Chair of the Board of Trustees, who, on behalf on the Board, welcomed the students and urged them to embrace the challenge. “I ask you to embrace the challenge of seeking excellence in all your pursuits and embrace what is often the greater challenge of turning down some opportunities in order to focus on what is most important to you.

“I ask you to embrace the challenge of trying something new … take up the saxophone, make a new friend, join the swim team, whatever it may be ... and embrace the moments of struggle you may encounter by leaning on your peers, your teachers, and the remarkable network of support that exists within the GPS community. We are all pulling for you!”

Theme of the Year
Following opening remarks, Head of Upper School Beth Wilson introduced the four senior class leaders to reveal the Theme of the 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.

Our four elected senior class leaders—Caroline Breazeale, Abigail Carpenter, Emmaline Hill, and Caitlin Polk—shared with their fellow students the theme they had selected: Flourish. Abigail said, “Each of us had felt like since the sixth grade, or whatever grade we joined GPS, we had grown as a person and blossomed into the people we are today. We wanted the theme to encapsulate this and be applicable to each member of our community and really resonate with the student body.” 

Caitlin added, “The word flourish means ‘to grow or develop in a healthy way as the result of a favorable environment.’ However, one singular environment or climate isn’t suitable for all flowers to grow in, and different flowers will grow different petals, just as people will grow up with many different backgrounds and gain different attributes and personalities than each other. Despite these differences, flowers are all related because they share a few important things in common with one another. This is the type of sisterhood that GPS strives for.”

Emmaline spoke next, noting how unique elements make a bouquet beautiful, followed by Caroline who shared they incorporated a black bow, similar to those seen on the traditional uniform, to tie the flowers together, as a symbol of the connection students experience at GPS.

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 2027 walk the sidewalk from Middle to Upper School. Led by Mrs. Lauren Lawrence Swanson ’09, Dean of the Freshman Class, the students entered the Upper School from a sidewalk lined by seniors to be greeted by their sophomore and junior sisters inside the building.

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.

Officer Installation
To close the day, the student body, faculty, and staff gathered together again in the Frierson Theatre for the first Chapel of the year, when class officers were installed. Beth spoke to the students about leadership and their responsibilities to their classmates as their elected representatives.

She said, “Leadership, just like other -ships like friendship and relationship, comes not from a title bestowed but from our words and actions. A leader interacts with those around her in ways that influence them positively, open up opportunities for them, and build a stronger community in which they can thrive.” She shared that great leaders are good communicators and even better listeners with good ideas who know when and how to amplify the ideas of others. “The girls we are inducting today have been chosen by their peers because they have shown qualities of leadership during their time at GPS,” Beth said. “These girls are committed to the GPS mission and are ready to work hard for the best interest of their classmates.”

Honor Council | Sworn in by Katie Outlaw, Interim Head of Middle School and Honor Council Sponsor
Caroline Breazeale, president
Seniors | Ella Harris and Arysa Kayasit
Juniors | Mabry Cook and Kendall Ownby
Sophomores | Adreanna Calloway and Amelia Claire Anderson
Freshmen | Emma Virginia Birnbaum and Victoria Schmidlin
Eighth-Graders | Bea Burbank and Emily Craig
Student Council | Sworn in by Erin Sizemore, Dean of Students
Emmaline Hill, president
Seniors | Caroline Barnes, Scout Chapin, and Jenna Naik
Juniors | Khadeeja Agha, Ellison Ball, and Gwyneth Parks
Sophomores | Mia Brunetz and Chapman Mathis
Freshmen | Ellie Holland, Cat Nygaard, and Stephanie Zhong
Partnerships in the Community | Sworn in by Marci Waldorf, PIC Advisor
Abigail Carpenter, president
Seniors | Hoda Alameddine, Gabbi Fivas, and Sadie Pacenti
Juniors | Caroline Grant, Charlotte Parsley, Ella Beth Wiedmer
Sophomores | Lillian Bernard and Emma Pratt
Freshmen | Amelia Jenkins and Molly Ransom

Here’s to the girls and the teachers, coaches, and support team who lead and love them so well. Here’s to the 2023-24 school year!