On October 25, 2022, Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly and Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp offered official decrees deeming October 25 “Chattanooga Day of the Girl.” This special holiday was created under the innovative leadership of Lauren Lawrence Swanson ’09, GPS Director of Belonging and Community Engagement, to promote the importance of girls’ education and leadership in our city.
Yesterday, alongside friends Girls Inc., the GPS community traveled to Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy (CGLA) to celebrate the second annual Chattanooga Day of the Girl (CDOG). Upon arrival, attendees received commemorative CDOG bracelets and sweet treats from Bruster’s and Snow Daze. From there, girls enjoyed time on the playground, friendship bracelet making, lawn games, music and dancing, and more.
The official program began at 2 p.m., when CGLA Principal Sylvia Davis welcomed the crowd and introduced CGLA CEO in Residence Yolanda Williams. Yolanda introduced student speakers Serenity Nixon, Trinity Williams, and Abigail Carpenter.
Trinity, a senior at CSAS, spoke first about how impactful her time with Girls Inc. has been. “Girls Inc. has always been a place of refuge for me,” she said. “Staff show up for us day in and day out. It has given so much to me—I feel supported.”
Serenity, senior class president at CGLA, spoke next noting that navigating this world can be a difficult task, which makes it so critical to have representation in her community. She said, “Girls organizations have prepared me to think critically about relationships and the importance of my mental health.” To close, she offered a quote from Isabel Allende, a Chilean writer: 'I can promise you that women working together—linked, informed and educated—can bring peace and prosperity to this forsaken planet.' and said, “Together we can make the world a better place.”
Abigail, a senior at GPS and the Partnerships in the Community president, was the final student speaker. She talked about how much the arts have helped her find her place and how important it is for all girls to have opportunities that allow them to find their voices and learn more about themselves.
Head of School at GPS Megan Cover spoke next, followed by Lauren Swanson, who introduced this year’s featured speaker, Chattanooga Chief of Police Celeste Murphy.
In her address to the girls of GPS, CGLA, and Girls Inc., Chief Murphy said that, throughout her career, she has always been in the minority of such a male-dominated field. “Only 12 percent of professionals in this field are women, and only 3 percent land in leadership positions,” she said. Detailing how she made sure she took advantage of all opportunities available to her throughout her career and learned to believe in herself she said, “When I look at this crowd, I see potential. Whatever you choose to do, don’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough.” She concluded her talk by referencing Beyoncé: “Use this opportunity to come together and let everyone know who runs the world—girls.”
Toccora Johnson-Petersen, CEO of Girls Inc. closed the program and dismissed the students for a grade vs. grade dodgeball tournament. Congratulations to our senior champs!