The GPS 117th school year began Wednesday with a return to Frierson Theatre to celebrate the start of a new year.
Head of School Megan D. Cover welcomed the students seventh- through 11th-graders and urged everyone to stand up and cheer as the Grand Old Seniors danced into the theater to the song “Live While We’re Young.” Following the 88 students from the Class of 2023, our faculty and staff, in order of seniority, entered Frierson to “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”
Then everyone stood up and cheered enthusiastically for the Class of 2029, the sixth-graders who entered while “On Top of the World” played over the speakers.
Associate Head of School and Head of Middle School Lynne Macziewski offered a prayer of thanks to begin the year, seeking “the courage to find peace, to pursue challenges, and to have confidence in ourselves and in all that we do” and for guidance along the way. “Remind us that our journey is more important than our destination and that the people around us, and the relationships we build with others, are paramount to all else,” she prayed.
Ms. Cover returned to the lectern to officially welcome back the school community and to share her goals for the school year: “This year our focus will be the joy of learning and discovery; community, connection, and engagement; and pride in our school.”
She then shared a piece of art she owns and photo of the evening sky over Founders House with an illuminated peak of clouds. “Girls, a GPS education is a gift that is yours forever,” Cover said. “At our school you can explore, dream, fail and recover, achieve, and while you do this, we are here to support you, care for you, and love you as you discover your passions, interests, your ‘peak. I look forward to the best year yet with each and every one of you.”
Next to speak was Clay Watson, chair of the Board of Trustees, who, on behalf on the Board, welcomed the students and urged them to “make it count. Make your experience, education, relationships, athletic endeavors, artistic creations, your first year, your senior year, your sophomore year, count.”
Mr. Watson continued, “Girls, someone somewhere has worked or is working really hard for you to have this great opportunity to expand your mind and to prepare you for the next chapter. Make it count for them.”
He then congratulated the seniors and charged them to set the example for the other classes to follow and urged the faculty to use their time to motivate their students to reach their full potential. In closing Mr. Watson said, “Have a great year, enjoy your sisterhood, beat Baylor, and make it count.”
Next Ms. Cover introduced the new faculty and staff and had the new students joining GPS this school year stand to be recognized, including two international students joining from Germany and Croatia.
Presenting next was Caitlin Riddle, associate director of Communications and Marketing, who introduced a newly designed secondary “casual brand” that better aligns with brands the girls are familiar with. This clean mark includes a torch graphic that pays homage to the torch within the crest and features a fresh color palette that appeals to the girls.
Theme of the Year
Like those before them, the incoming senior class leaders were charged with selecting a theme for the school year. In choosing a theme, the seniors select a word or phrase that not only represents their class, but also encompasses the entire student body.
The four elected senior class leaders—Hannah Grace Kornberg, Caroline Clark, Hayden Wise, and Anabel Wilson—shared with their fellow students the theme of the year: Joy in the Journey. They each talked about the challenges they’ve faced during their time in the Upper School and how they learned to look for ways to enjoy their shared struggles while finding things that spark joy. Caitlin Riddle designed the graphic that will be used on light pole banners around school and the stickers given to each student and faculty member.
Head of Upper School Beth Creswell Wilson ’96 then announced the winners of the two school scholarships. Anisha Phade ’23 was presented with the Grace McCallie Scholarship, awarded to the rising senior who has maintained the highest GPA during her Upper School years. The Duffy-Jarnagin Scholarship is awarded annually to the rising junior with the highest GPA at the end of her sophomore year who also exhibits the qualities of the ideal GPS student, as envisioned by the co-founders. The recipient should be “a highly respected member of her class, have integrity beyond question and be loyal to the school.” This year two students shared the honor: Lucie DeGaetano ’24 and Ella Harris ’24.
Class Officer Installation
Before the induction of those into Honor Council, Student Council, and Partnerships in the Community, Ms. Wilson went on to share with the girls a message on leadership. She said, “Leadership, just like other -ships like friendship and relationship, comes not from a title bestowed but from our words and actions. A leader interacts with those around her in ways that influence them positively, open up opportunities for them, and build a stronger community in which they can thrive.” She shared that great leaders are good communicators and even better listeners with good ideas who know when and how to amplify the ideas of others. “Leaders are confident, accountable, honest, and empathetic. We frequently see leaders in the spotlight, but they spend far more time working tirelessly behind the scenes.” She shared more attributes of good leaders: approachable, mindful of actions and words, lead by example, seek input from others, and active listeners.
“The girls we are inducting today have been chosen by their peers because they have shown qualities of leadership during their time at GPS,” Ms. Wilson said. “These girls are committed to the GPS mission and are ready to work hard for the best interest of their classmates.”
In closing, the installation of class officers took place. Katie Outlaw, Middle School Dean of Students, spoke to the students about leadership and their responsibilities to their classmates as their elected representatives.
Honor Council | Sworn in by Katie Outlaw, Middle School Dean of Students and Honor Council Sponsor
Hannah Grace Kornberg, president
Seniors | Sophie McGee and Meghan Boehm
Juniors | Caroline Breazeale and Ella Harris
Sophomores | Mabry Cook and Kendall Ownby
Freshmen | Adreanna Calloway and Lauren Gardner
Eighth-Graders | Roee Chapin and Lily Ownby
Student Council | Sworn in by Erin Sizemore, Upper School Dean of Students
Caroline Clark, president
Seniors | Megan Jones, Abigail Mann, Keller Williamson, and Meghan Wilson
Juniors | Caroline Barnes, Scout Chapin, Emmaline Hill, and Jenna Naik
Sophomores | Khadeeja Agha, Ellison Ball, and Gwyneth Parks
Freshmen | Mia Brunetz, Hadley Golden, and Chapman Mathis
Partnerships in the Community | Sworn in by Tiffany Simms ’03, PIC Advisor
Hayden Wise, president
Seniors | Rowan Espy, Morgan Summerlin, and Eveyln Lytle
Juniors | Hoda Alameddine, Abigail Carpenter, and Gabbi Fivas
Sophomores | Caroline Grant and Ella Beth Wiedmer
Freshmen | Lillian Bernard and Emma Pratt
Special thanks to Mr. Will Glass, director of Library, Media and Makerspace, for wood burning designs on each of the tokens the students received: a branch for Honor Council, a bridge for StuCo, and a compass for PIC.
Freshmen Walk Across the Lawn
At the conclusion of the opening assembly, the students were dismissed to take their places along the lawn and in the Upper School to ceremoniously watch the Class of 2026 walk the sidewalk from Middle to Upper School as Ms. Macziewski gave them a warm sendoff while Ms. Wilson greeted them at the entrance to the Upper School. Led by Mrs. Lauren Lawrence Swanson ’09, Dean of the Freshman Class, the students entered the Upper School from a sidewalk lined by seniors to be greeted by their sophomore and junior sisters inside the building.
After the walk across the lawn, students enjoyed free time to gather, reconnect, and catch up. Then it was off to an abbreviated class schedule while our sixth-graders spent the day becoming accustomed and acquainted with their new school and how to get around, which included new photos for their ID badges and an afternoon scavenger hunt.
Watch the video of the opening assembly here and the walk across the lawn here.