Girls Preparatory School, also known as GPS, is an all-girls private school in Chattanooga Tennessee. Since GPS is a private school, students must pay a tuition in order to enroll in the school. GPS girls are typically stereotyped using two characteristics: caucasian and wealthy. What does it look like to go to a school where you do not fit those stereotypes?
JJ Dunigan is a senior at GPS and she is African American and is enrolled at GPS due to a scholarship that pays for her tuition. Dunigan does not fit the typical GPS girl stereotype, so what does that mean to her? After spending a few weeks with Dunigan I was able to get an idea of some of the pros and the cons to going to a school like GPS and being part of the minority.
Dunigan grew up in Chattanooga and started school at Tyner. After her mother noticed some behavior issues, Dunigan was forced to transfer to GPS for high school. When asked what Tyner was like Dunigan said, “It was people like me. We all lived in the same area, knew the same people, and liked the same things.” Tyner is predominately an African American school in a low income part of Chattanooga. Things such as different skin color, different hair type, and different dance abilities are just a few of the things that separated Dunigan from her classmates when she made the switch from Tyner to GPS. These differences make it difficult for Dunigan to connect with other students at GPS.
Now a senior at GPS, Dunigan is a basketball player and also runs track. She would like to play basketball collegiately if she gets the opportunity. “That’s why I want to go to college; to play ball and get a good job.” Dunigan said she would not be the person she was today if she didn’t go to GPS. Dunigans life consist of her going to school, going to practice, and then going home to do homework. Dunigan does not have many friends from GPS that she hangs out with outside of school and says she does not have time to hang out with her neighborhood friends who are the friends she went to Tyner with when she was growing up. “I’m going to GPS to be better; a better person, better in school, and better at basketball. I don’t have time to mess that up.”
Overall, Dunigan believes that GPS is one of the best things that has happened to her. Without GPS Dunigan says she doesn’t know where she would be but she knows she would be in trouble. She does miss her friends and cousins who she use to hang out with before going to school at GPS and dislikes how GPS is its own little world; it makes her feel like she has to choose between her real friends and her future. However, because of the things that she has seen in her neighborhood, she dreams of a bright future. GPS is giving her the chance to achieve that dream.
About the Storyteller
Invitation Only: Black Girl in a White World was photographed and written by Erica Roberts. This story was created in COMM 3700, Photojournalism 1, during the Fall 2017 semester.
Erica Roberts is majoring in Sports Administration and minoring in Communications. She expects to graduate from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in May 2018. Roberts is a middle school basketball coach at Girls Preparatory School.
Copyright 2017, Erica Roberts, all rights reserved.