GPS Class of 2024 Celebrates Commencement

Family, friends, faculty, and staff gather to share in the accomplishments of our graduating seniors.
Before the start of school, the leaders of the rising senior class always meet to determine their theme for the upcoming school year. For the Class of 2024, this meant celebrating each girl’s growth, and thus was born, “Flourish.” In the Opening Day assembly, Partnerships in the Community President Abigail Carpenter explained, “In selecting our theme, words like growth, community, and connection kept cropping up. Each of us felt we had grown as a person throughout our years here and blossomed into who we are today.”

Class Leadership Council Chairwoman Caitlin Polk further explained their thinking: “The word ‘flourish’ means to grow or develop in a healthy way as a result of a favorable environment,” she said. “We don’t all have to like the same things, look the same, or grow up in similar environments. Because the shared experiences that we gain here and the time we spend together allows us to relate to each other despite our differences. The special bond we make with our classmates here will tie all of our unique flowers together, just like a ribbon does a bouquet.”

Today’s Commencement ceremony marks the conclusion of their time together, but as they venture out into the world, these students will continue to flourish, and their bonds will remain unbreakable. These girls have shared victories in the classroom and on the courts and fields, bonded during late night study sessions, laughed and danced together in the hallways and dining hall, and experienced the ups and downs of adolescence. Very soon they will attend colleges and universities across the U.S. But today they are one—The GPS Class of 2024.

Welcome, Invocation, and Remarks to the Class of 2024
To begin the ceremony, the seniors processed into the main gym to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstances,” and Head of School Megan Cover welcomed those in attendance to the 118th Commencement ceremony, then introduced Caroline Breazeale, who offered the invocation.

Megan then began her speech to the Class of 2024. She first mentioned their theme of the year and said, “Through challenges and triumphs, you've flourished as a community of young women, celebrating each other's growth and embracing your differences. The theme ‘Flourish’ beckons you all to bloom authentically, to find your own paths and face the journey ahead with courage and resilience. Your leaders reminded you that each day, as you tied your GPS bow, the value of sisterhood connected you to the thousands of young women who came before you and the countless memories that will shape your future.” 

Megan continued, highlighting some of the incredible women who have shone bright this year, such as athletes Coco Gauff, who achieved her first Grand Slam tennis victory at 19, and Caitlin Clark, whose success on the basketball court is already changing the WNBA. “These young women ‘played like a girl’ and the world watched in awe,” Megan said. “They worked hard toward their dreams and passions, overcoming hurdles, lifting themselves up while unknowingly serving as role models for all of us.”

Megan then spoke on Time magazine’s “Women of the Year” issue, which features prestigious women from many industries, including business, film, athletics, publishing, music, and science. She said, “Their commonality is their ability to make a greater impact on the world by raising up their peers through their own successes. Using their voices to bring about positive and impactful change that not only empowers themselves but inspires those around them. In other words, leading by example; women who helped each other to flourish.”

Megan concluded her remarks by reminding the girls how well they have lifted each other up over the years. “I hope the lessons you learned beyond the classroom stay embedded in your hearts and, that as you leave us and make your way into this wide world, others will value you and see what we saw in you: that you are strong, brave, and resilient, and ready to lead in what comes your way and what you seek out. 

As you step off the stage today with your diploma in hand, embrace the adventure that lies ahead, remain curious, stay kind, and know that your alma mater, your GPS, will be cheering you on as you flourish in every way.” 

Valedictory Address
Following Megan’s speech, Head of Upper Dr. School Beth Creswell Wilson ’96 took the stage to introduce the student speakers. Beth said, “Girls Preparatory School has a long tradition of not inviting outside Commencement speakers because we find this time to be most suitable to hear from the young women who have grown, flourished, and deepened their wisdom while students at our school.” She then introduced valedictorians Lucie DeGaetano and Ella Harris.

Lucie and Ella spoke about what they felt makes their class special. Ella said, “What makes the Class of 2024 so strong is that we embody the spirit of sisterhood in a way that also celebrates the diversity of our classmates … the support I’ve received on this campus truly is legendary.”

Lucie confirmed Ella’s sentiments, saying, “We have a community that is there for us in every moment, from the smallest embarrassing days, to the bigger things, like recognizing that your worth is made up of more than your grades. Our community celebrates and supports the incredible people we are as individuals.”

Ella then thanked the teachers, parents, and mentors who made the GPS experience what it is and said, “The safe spaces, academic and extracurricular opportunities, the advocacy on our behalves, all of it truly is made possible by the people here at GPS who have cared about us and helped us to, dare I say, flourish. For both of us, this school has been a space where we have been able to grow and to explore our passions as we have each come to recognize the ways in which we are able to enact change in the world.”

The two concluded their talk with charges to their classmates that included,
  • Remember to be as friendly as Ms. Betts is even on a rainy day,
  • To be as trustworthy as your Honor Council representatives,
  • To be as empathetic as the members of your affinity groups,
  • To be as collaborative as we were when we learned to wind the maypoles together,
  • To be as wise and patient as every teacher you’ve had here, and
  • To be as welcoming as you were when you first met your Rat.

Senior Speaker
Kaitlyn Melda spoke next, having earned the honor from her classmates who selected her to reprise her Chapel Talk.

“Twenty years from now, where will we be?” she began before sharing stories of sisterhood from two GPS alumnae and current faculty—Laurel Moore Zahrobsky ’90 and Tracie Marlin Durham ’80. “This school creates something really special that we take for granted,” Kaitlyn said. “There is no other school that truly embodies the meaning of sisterhood.”

She continued by speaking about her experience starting at GPS as an eighth-grader, worried she wouldn’t make friends but was pleasantly surprised by the welcoming faces that greeted her on Opening Day. From Zoom classes due to COVID to dances, athletic team tryouts, winding the maypoles, Junior Ring Day, and more, the Class of 2024 has shared memories and experiences they will remember forever. 

“But more than the experiences themselves, I will never forget the people I shared them with,” Kaitlyn remarked. “When I look back on the difficult parts of high school, like failing a test or getting in a fight with a friend, I don't remember what grade I got or what we even fought about—but I do remember the friends, classmates, and teammates who helped me through these tough moments.”

Distribution of Diplomas and Chair of the Board of Trustees Charge
After the student speeches, Amy Arrowsmith, Chair of the Board of Trustees, addressed the class. “Seniors, on Opening Day in August, I issued a charge to you: Embrace the challenge. I believe those three words sum up the essence of what it means to be a GPS graduate,” she said.

“Throughout your time here, your teachers and coaches have challenged you beyond your comfort zones and encouraged you to never settle for anything less than your best. You have been instilled with the values of honor and respect and learned that curiosity is the key to knowledge. You have discovered the power of your voices and the beauty of your uniqueness. And you have built meaningful relationships that will last a lifetime. 

“Now you are strong, you are capable, and you are ready to join the ranks of a very special group of women, the GPS alumnae. Go out and make us proud ... and come back to visit. This is your school, and as Chair of the Board of Trustees, I can tell you GPS is strong and thriving and will be ready to welcome your daughters someday.”

Following Amy’s address, Beth presented each member of the class while Megan and Amy handed out diplomas and personally congratulated each girl. 

Final Charge and Benediction
Megan then provided her final charge the the Class of 2024: “Be yourself, show empathy, find your purpose, remain curious, laugh more, be kind to others, practice humility, discover your passions, fail forward, use your voice, know you belong, and remember fondly your time at GPS: the people, the community, the sisterhood, and the experience. And, as Winnie the Pooh says, 'If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.'”

Senior Sutton Salter then offered the benediction.  

Here’s to the Class of 2024! We could not be more proud of you!

To watch the video of the ceremony, click here.