Atlanta Girls’ School marks 20 years

Maxena Greissland (L) and Mia Durroh team up in an AP Environmental Science class at the Atlanta Girls' School, which marks its 20th anniversary this year.
Maxena Greissland (L) and Mia Durroh team up in an AP Environmental Science class at the Atlanta Girls' School, which marks its 20th anniversary this year.

Credit: Art Of Life Photography

Credit: Art Of Life Photography

Olivia Paige was an eighth grader living in Avondale Estates when she had a choice to make: Which high school was it going to be? She explored several, but one kept drawing her back: the Atlanta Girls' School in Buckhead.

“To be honest, as an eighth grader, I didn’t know a lot about single-gender education,” said the 2012 graduate. “But the more I went to open houses and met other girls, the more I was drawn to the school and what some might consider a non-traditional learning experience. I was very involved in student body leadership, and that propelled me to do more in my college and graduate school days, even now in my current job.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the school that saw its firsts cohort of grads walk across the stage in 2004. Today, the school averages about 200 students who head to the Buckhead campus from 60 metro area ZIP codes.

“We are the only all-girls, private, sixth-through-12, nonreligious school in Georgia, and being small gives every girl the opportunity to build confidence and to find, use and raise her voice,” said Head of School Ayanna Hill-Gill, now in her seventh year. “Every part of our school’s culture is designed to inspire girls to lead lives of purpose and to be their authentic selves.”

The school’s diversity is a major draw, Hill-Gill adds. “About 60% of our students are students of color, and that’s intentional: Our founders really wanted the body to reflect Atlanta.”

Paige recalled that the geographic diversity created at least one common bond. “I was meeting girls from all over the city and suburbs, and that was a plus,” she said. “And I never felt like the odd one out having to commute to school.”

Her AGS experiences are similar to stories many graduates relate, said English and French teacher Jennifer Halicki, who has been part of the school for 16 years and witnessed its growth from small space at Buckhead Baptist Church to its present home on Northside Parkway.

“The stereotypes of a girls' school are often that it’s easier – or it’s harder because of preconceived notions of what society has about girls,” she said. “But the reality is when you’re in an all-girls environment, girls get to fill every role. And that lets them see the possibilities of being whatever they want to be.”

The school’s small size also contributes to the experience, Halicki added. “Girls come here because they want to feel close to classmates and teachers, and in fact, most say the relationships and the support they have with the teachers is an important part of helping them grow into their full selves.”

Now a program manager for the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health in California, Paige remains actively involved in promoting the school through her seat on the board. To mark the anniversary, she has helped launch “Leading Unapologetically,” a virtual speakers series that celebrates and advocates for women in leadership, empowering young girls and the power of a girls' school education.

The event recently launched with Rachel Simmons, best-selling author of “Odd Girl Out,” “The Curse of the Good Girl” and “Enough As She Is.” Additional speakers are planned in the coming months.

“We’ve had our students connect to women leaders through internships and events on campus before,” said Hill-Gill. “But now in a virtual space, we have a chance to offer this to families beyond AGS to celebrate the voices of girls and women in leadership.”

Information about the Atlanta Girls' School and the speakers series is online atatlantagirlsschool.org.

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.

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