Following her time at GPS, Amy Perkins ’02 attended Birmingham-Southern College, where she graduated with a B.S. in psychology. When a children’s programs coordinator position opened up at a homeless shelter for women and children in Birmingham, Alabama, she jumped at the opportunity to serve. She realized quickly that helping those in difficult situations was where her heart lay, and her next move was to the University of Georgia to complete her masters in professional counseling and Ph.D. in counseling psychology. Today, Perkins works as a licensed clinical psychologist at Henegar Counseling Center in Chattanooga, where she provides therapy and conducts assessments for ADHD and other learning disorders for children, adolescents, and adults. She also teaches at Richmont Graduate University, training masters-level therapists.
Q. How did you get into what you’re doing now? Did you always know you wanted to be a psychologist?
A. I have been interested in people for a very long time. When I was training to get my master's degree, a professor took an interest in me and encouraged me to get my Ph.D. While in graduate school, I worked with adolescents who were involved in the juvenile justice system. I truly loved working with these teens and felt compelled to continue my education as I learned to help those who are in difficult situations within difficult and broken systems.
Q. Why are you passionate about what you do?
A. I feel very privileged in that I truly love what I do. I enjoy connecting with people on an emotional level. I have acknowledged that I have a gift for being able to sit with people in their pain and to walk with them through their pain. I enjoy being with people as they create meaning in their lives.
Q. What was your favorite tradition at GPS? Why?
A. I had so much fun dancing the maypole on May Day. I thought it was so fun—learning the dance with my entire class, braiding everyone's hair, and having that role with my best friends. It is still one of my favorites memories and one of GPS's long-standing traditions.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you received during your time at GPS? Do you remember who it came from?
A. Mrs. Mines was my history teacher for many history classes. She was once talking me into taking an AP history class. She said something like, "You can do hard things. The best things are often the hard things." I did take that AP history class, but what was important to me was that she believed in me and helped me prove to myself that I can do more than I thought I could do.
Q. If you could offer one piece of advice to current GPS students, what would it be?
A. I would suggest that they take advantage of their time with their friends and have fun! GPS is such a unique place—enjoy all the opportunities it allows you!
Q. Do you stay in touch with your classmates? What impact have they had on your life?
A. My best friend (Jenny Gibson) was my classmate at GPS. We have been friends for over 20 years now, and I cannot imagine my life without her. She has supported me through the ups and downs of my life. My little girl was the flower girl at her wedding. My life would not be the same without her.
I also have other close friends I value who were my classmates. They are strong women who share my values and are always there to listen and support me! I love my GPS friends.
Q. Can you point to anything that GPS did to prepare you for your future?
A. The study skills I learned at GPS were very helpful. During my first year of college, while many of my classmates were struggling to acclimate to their new environment and learn to study for college courses, I already knew how to study for difficult classes. I could focus more on adjusting to my new environment.
Q. Who is a GPS girl to you?
A. She is gracious, kind, and intelligent. She is culturally aware and politically knowledgeable. She is a force to be reckoned with.
Q. What is your proudest accomplishment thus far?
A. Completing my Ph.D. was very exciting. But I am proudest of my four kids and of the life that I have created with my husband. I will say, completing a Ph.D. while having young children was quite an experience!