John Shearer: GPS May Queen Addie Youmans Has Varied Interests

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

As an accomplished rower who has received a Division I scholarship to Indiana University, graduating Girls Preparatory School senior Mary Adella “Addie” Youmans has the skills that put her in the front of a boat.
 
And as a naturally outgoing and upbeat person, she also feels at home in front of friends and others amicably conversing, too.
 
But she was admittedly taken aback and surprised this school year when she learned she would be in front of others in another way – as the school’s May queen.
But that is what happened when she found out on Dec. 9 she had been voted as the queen and on April 28 when the tradition-rich May Day event was held at the North Chattanooga campus.
 
As she joked while reminiscing recently, she had been at rowing practice that morning in December and admittedly did not have time to get her hair looking right when she remembered they were selecting the court and queen that day.
 
“I said, ‘That’s OK, there is no way I am going to be the May queen.,’ ” she remembered with a laugh.
 
But then she was voted to the May Court by the seniors, and after a break, all the students selected the May queen. And it was Addie.
 
“I went up on stage and I was expecting them to say someone else’s name,” she said. “I was very shocked.”
 
While being May queen is not an honor she ever thought about much as a student -- as made evident by the fact she always wondered what color dress she would like to wear as a senior, not the traditional white worn by the queen -- she was deeply touched to be selected.
 
A May queen and court members are described by the school as being representative of the senior class in the highest sense. They possess such qualities as grace, friendliness, loyalty, and active involvement, are giving of their time and talents, and also have character, integrity, and respect.
 
Addie admittedly had a great time during the May Day ceremony, when it was moved to the track and soccer stadium by the river to allow for more spreading out and social distancing as the pandemic winds down. The juniors also got to join the sophomores with the traditional maypole dance to make up for last year’s abbreviated May Day in July for seniors only.
 
“It was so much fun,” she said. “I honestly wished the day would never end. I got to see all my friends presented.”
 
While she said she was only mildly nervous, she was aided in that realm by the fact that she waited to come out in the familiar rowing boathouse, the scene of many other positive highlights of her life at GPS. 
 
Her life from the river to the top of the May Court was also part of the conclusion of a whirlwind senior year that culminated with graduation. But it almost ended up not starting there. That was because her parents, Brittain Bussart and Frank Youmans, both had gone to – yes – rival Baylor School.
 
But while she was at Normal Park Museum Magnet School, some neighbors -- older GPS student Maddie Watson and her mother, Melanie Underwood -- had encouraged her to take a tour of GPS. While doing that, she quickly fell in love with the place.
 
“They were trying to convince me to go to GPS,” she said. “Since I knew I belonged here, I was so glad I toured here.”
 
After learning of her selection as queen in December, her proud neighbors congratulated her, she added.
 
Her parents and stepmother, Anne Elizabeth Youmans, have also been supportive of her time and success at GPS, although she joked that she had to educate her mother a little early on about what all May Day was about. A great-aunt who was an alumna of the school was also pleased that finally another family member was going there.
 
Her family connections with different schools continue to spread out as well, as younger sisters Kate and Sadie attend Ivy Academy and Baylor, respectively, and younger brother Townshend attends Fairyland School.
 
Like with her school choice, Addie’s choice of rowing came about in sort of an unexpected way, too, when she learned more about the sport after one of her friends attended a rowing camp.
 
“I tried rowing in the fall as a freshman and it just clicked for me and told me it could be my future,” she said. “I loved it a lot. I like being on the water and my dad likes being on the water and I have always grown up around the Tennessee River. And it made me feel very powerful.”
 
She had grown up being involved in dancing and musical theater and has enjoyed continuing in the Candlelight Choir program at GPS in coordination with McCallie. She added that dancing actually has helped her with rowing by developing good technical skills and the rhythm needed by someone near the front of a boat.
 
Addie has also managed to stay in rhythm and sync as well with the rest of school life. The good student is involved in such groups as Beta Club, Student Council, the Community Service Council, the Environmental Club and the Junior State of America non-partisan political club.
 
She selected Indiana University, best known for its once-proud men’s basketball tradition, due to feeling comfortable with the coaching staff and the family-like-but-competitive team atmosphere that reminded her of life at GPS.
 
She also liked the pretty campus and the fact a big state school might have numerous opportunities and resources and support as she weighs her career plans. The natural conversationalist, who said she tries to focus on being kind to people like in the song her music hero Harry Styles once sang with One Direction, said her future could range widely. 
 
She has thought about business and public policy, environmental work, law and even being an obstetrician/gynecologist. And she has also dreamed of being a talk show host like Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.
 
“There are so many opportunities in the world and trying to figure out what is best for me” is hard, she said with a smile.
 
But she is certain that GPS has made a positive impact on her life. She calls it an amazing place that has aided her academically, socially and emotionally. 
 
“GPS has built a lot of my self-confidence,” she said. “I feel more than prepared to go to college. And I’m going to be able to handle anything that comes my way.”
 
*  *. *
 
Jcshearer2@comcast.net

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