Standing ovations were the rule rather than the exception on Monday as the faculty, new students, and a new head of school were welcomed at opening assembly. As has become custom at GPS, gowned faculty led in the sixth grade class to the cheers, applause, and ‘atta-girl’ pats on the back to the 82 members of the Class of 2021 as they walked nervously up the steps of the Frierson Theatre to their seats.
The celebratory air continued as students and faculty sang and danced to the music of “We’re All in This Together” from High School Musical. Click here for more photos from opening day.
Elaine Milazzo, principal of the Middle School, welcomed the students back to their school, one that offers “rigor with support,” opportunities for physical growth through athletics, and opportunities for service. She described the mood as one of “thankfulness to be a part of a greater goal.”
Dr. Chris Smith, chair of the Board of Trustees, introduced Dr. Autumn Graves, new head of school, who received a lengthy standing ovation. “I’m pretty certain that no school in town just opened with this enthusiasm and energy,” Dr. Graves told the students before wishing them a happy new year. Describing GPS as a supportive, warm, kind community, she introduced the other new students in the 7th through 11th grades before asking the sixth graders to stand once again. “These 115 new Bruisers represent 51 schools and 33 zip codes,” she said, thanking GPS student ambassadors and the admission office for their success.
Revealing school photos of herself at the ages of 11 and 17, she reassured the girls that she remembers being scared, nervous, and also happy. “”Keep surrounding yourself with positive people,” she said, “great coaches, friends, and mentors who all want you to be your best self.”
Acknowledging the girls’ concerns and hopes as they start a new school year, she told them that the four things important to her at their age – being known and loved, being in a safe place to take thoughtful risks, being allowed to be herself, and being allowed to learn from her missteps – is how she wants each of them to describe GPS. “I want each of you to say, ‘This is My School,’ but know that you must take on some responsibilities to make that claim.”
Noting that she herself has 15 weeks to go before giving birth to her first child, she said, “All of us will change in some way this year, and the good changes will be because of this community.”
In closing the assembly, Jessica Good, principal of the Upper School, described the day as one the students will remember for the rest of their lives, saying, “This day begins a new era in GPS history.”