When the nucleus of the Girls Preparatory School Class of 2019 began its scholastic journey in 2012 as sixth-graders, Myra Brock was a home-schooled student probably also playing some in her yard with family and just a few friends.
This past May 1, nearly five years after she enrolled at the school beginning as an eighth-grader, her stroll across a different kind of lawn was in front of hundreds of people.
Miss Brock was serving as the school’s May queen and carrying on a more-than-100-year-old tradition leading the May Day festivities at the independent school located just off Barton Avenue in North Chattanooga.
And, yes, she was admittedly a little nervous, she recalled in a recent interview at the school regarding her achievement.
But she said she quickly tried to focus on the other classmates – even while all eyes were on her due to the fact that the May queen briefly parades around the school’s upper lawn.
“I was nervous,” she said with a smile.
“But the more I thought of it as a celebration of the senior class rather than a celebration of the May queen, it made me feel less pressure.”
She added that her classmates all looked beautiful in their formal dresses of varying colors, and that also helped her feel at ease.
While nervous might be the way to describe her experiences on one of the few GPS May Day celebrations of recent years actually held on May 1, surprise might best describe her reaction when she learned she had been named queen.
As she told the story, when the six May Court members were announced back in December after being voted on by the senior class, she thought the first five classmates named were perfect selections.
But then Miss Brock was taken aback a little when the sixth and final court member was announced – her. “I said, ‘Oh,’ ” she said, admitting a little shock that she was selected.
Then the entire student body selected her as May queen, causing a little more surprise, but a humbling feeling at the same time.
“It was a huge honor,” she said with sincerity. “I was kind of surprised because I didn’t think of myself that way.”
In fact, she admitted that she felt a little pressure initially wondering if she could live up to being the ideal GPS student as she thought the definition of a May queen implied.
But then she realized it was best to simply continue to act the same way she always had and not make herself into something she was not.
To her, a May queen is someone who is honorable, has integrity and is friends with everybody, she said. And that includes the younger students, who, as at any school with five or more grades, can be intimidated by or at least in awe of older students.
“It’s important for a May queen to reach out to the younger kids,” she said.
Besides general encouragement, one way she tried to do this was through such Christian activities as leading a Christian Forum Club for middle school and also being a leader for the YoungLife-connected group, WyldLife, also for younger students.
Miss Brock, the daughter of Kim and Marshall Brock and granddaughter of former Covenant College President Frank Brock, said her Christian faith is important to her.
“It’s very central to my life and shaped me into who I am,” she said.
Her Christian faith also helped her connect in a goodwill manner to another and seemingly unexpected group at GPS – those of different religions and belief traditions.
“What has strengthened my faith and challenged me and been good for me has been to have friends of all different faiths,” she said. “The perceptions of different religions are that you can’t have friends of different faiths. But that’s not true at all.”
She said that the students did disagree with each other at times, but in respectful and amicable ways, and that was very healthy.
Miss Brock actually ended up at GPS as a result of another kind of friendly disagreement -- in her family. She is the only girl among six siblings, and was planning to be home schooled until she became a freshman in high school, as had been the family tradition until that point.
Unfortunately, restlessness took over for her. As she tells the story with a chuckle, “Home schooling wasn’t for me, and after 7th grade Mom decided it was time” to attend GPS, she said.
She quickly fell into place despite the awkwardness that can come to any student joining a class that is already partially intact, even though GPS, Baylor and McCallie all traditionally add students in the upper grades.
In fact, she has worn several uniforms at the school other than her formal white May queen dress and her regular GPS uniform, which she loved wearing because she did not have to worry about what clothes to put on each day.
She was a standout center midfielder on the soccer team that won the Bruisers’ second state soccer title in school history (the first was in 2014), and also ran cross country and has been a middle distance runner on the GPS track team.
Miss Brock was also a member of the four-person Leadership Council for her class as well as being involved in her aforementioned Christian club activities.
Late this summer, she will enroll as a freshman at Auburn University, a school that was initially on her radar about as much as getting selected as the May queen.
“I wasn’t initially looking at it,” she said. “But I went and toured it and I fell in love with it.”
She hopes to major in nutrition and food sciences there, saying that society today has a lot of misconceptions about what being healthy means, and she wants to change that. “I want to spread the right message of what it’s like to be healthy,” she said.
While applying to Auburn and getting acquainted with the school, she also learned the unique way Auburn people greet each other. Instead of hello, it is “War Eagle!”
She will also not forgot the special way she thinks the GPS community has connected with each other as well, from the teachers showing support, to all the fellow girl students becoming her good friends.
In other words, this former home-schooled student found a home as well as a school at GPS.
“I’ll miss how supportive the teachers are and I will really miss all the weird things we (girl students) do on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “I have five brothers and never actually had a sister, but this school has given me friends who are like sisters.
“And I’ll miss that.”
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Besides May queen Miss Brock, other members of the GPS May Day Court were Olivia Fannon, maid of honor; Caitlin O’Brien, crown bearer; Allison Smith, scepter bearer; Ellie Swan, left train bearer; and Maya Bhutwala, right train bearer.
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The GPS statement that students use when selecting a May queen says:
"We believe that our May Queen and Court should be representatives of the senior class in the highest sense. They should be gracious, friendly and loyal to friends and to GPS. They should be actively and enthusiastically involved in the life of GPS, eager to give of their time and their talents. They should stand for the highest ideals in character and integrity. They should be respected and admired by fellow schoolmates and faculty alike."
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Previous GPS May queens:
Margaret Anderson Coffey, 1914; Sue Devin Smith Gooch, 1915, Lucille Thomas Williams, 1916; (No May Day, 1917 and 1918); Helen Hughes Caine, 1919; Helen Glover Miller, 1920; Dorothy Brizzie Hedges, 1921; Geraldine Thatcher Glascock, 1922; Augusta Allison Lasley, 1923; Charlotte Ferger Signiago, 1924; Sarah Robinson Sharp, 1925; Mary Sanford Patten, 1926; Martha Lanier Graham, 1927; Evelyn Allison South, 1928.
Rowena Kruesi Frierson, 1929; Helen Gatewood Chenault, 1930; Elizabeth Finlay Chadwick, 1931; Charlotte Fowler Maclellan, 1932; Kate King Efurd, 1933; Mary Alice Thompson Chalfant, 1934; Marjorie Wallace Pontius, 1935; Betty Bryan Conroy, 1936; Virginia Johnson McKenzie, 1937; Betty Marus Thomas, 1938; Mary Katherine Fred Moore, 1939; Jane Brown Marlin, 1940; Hilda Hude Chapin, 1941; Mary-Claire Dorscheid Hailey, 1942; Elizabeth Carothers Gibson, 1943; Bonnie Johnson McBride, 1944; and Janet Johnston Strang, 1945.
Dorris Chapin Wells, 1946; Sally McClellan Currey, 1947; Anne Cahoon Stratton, 1948; Ann Nichols Goess, 1949; Sarah Key Patten Gwynn, 1950; Sally McCoy Garland, 1951; Dorothy Brown Ellis, 1952; Charlotte Patten Gauss and Phyllis Patten Hardin, 1953; Hildagarde Reeves Sutherland, 1954; Nan Chamberlain Smith, 1955; Elizabeth Montague Lewis, 1956; Betsy Chamberlain Tuller, 1957; Grace Elizabeth Moore, 1958; Barbara Boone Stabler, 1959; Anne Dudley Griffin, 1960; Sally Bacon Smartt, 1961; Katherine Frances Kendall, 1962; Diann Estabrook Seals, 1963; and Barbara Johnson Prickett, 1964.
Cynthia Kemp Battle and Suzanne Smith Allen, 1965; Helene Striebinger Reisman, 1966; Martha Smith Voght, 1967; Emily Bryan Grimes, 1968; Louise Chamberlain Tual, 1969; Allison Goree Willson, 1970; Honey Brown Doramus, 1971; Cathie Ault Kasch, 1972; Mary Rebecca Grems, 1973; Kim Lupton Strang, 1974; Eleanor Bryan Billington, 1975; Lynn Winningham, 1976; Carla Sinor Bush, 1977; Katie Lonas McKenzie, 1978; Frances Williamson McCallie, 1979; Nancy Collins Petty, 1980; Stephanie Petree Christian, 1981; Anne Duvoisin Halliburton, 1982; and Margaret Austin Curtis, 1983.
Etoil Bowles Brown, 1984; Frances Sholar Clark Howard, 1985; Jana Weekes Olson, 1986; Lisa Portera Grafton, 1987; Elizabeth Rose Provence, 1988; Lesley Denise Walker, 1989; Joy Rucker Clements, 1990; Christy Leigh McArthur Moore, 1991; Janet Ensign Neder, 1992; Jeannette Rae Sebes-McDonald, 1993; Toy O’Ferrall Harmon, 1994; Florie Louise Glendenning Cook, 1995; Ayeta Sabina Mbeche, 1996; Frances Sayle Milne, 1997; Crystal Yvonne Brooks Pourciau, 1998; Amber Leigh Swafford Tucker, 1999; and Jessica Ann Cofer LaFoy, 2000.
Amita Mohan Chhabra, 2001; Mary Katherine Dann Ogden, 2002; Vivian Grace Parham, 2003; Whitney Bell St. Charles, 2004; Erin Felton Lopez, 2005; Sarah Katherine Neall, 2006; Brandi Javon Andrews, 2007; Caitlin Alison McAloon, 2008; Rachel June Smith, 2009; Laura Elizabeth Laughlin, 2010; Mary Anna Caldwell, 2011; Rachel Austin Kelly, 2012; Tiana Nichole Mills, 2013; Jessica Lynn Erhart, 2014; Mackenzie Michelle Hobbs, 2015; Alyson Michelle Parris, 2016; Iman Ali, 2017; and Phoebe Mills, 2018.
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