As the dusk of the term comes into view, there is a flurry of activity and events that speak to the diversity and richness of life at the College. While there is normally a surge as the final weeks approach, there is an exponential rush to round off what has been a busy semester of teaching and learning, while at the same time retrieve some of the functions and events that were deferred in Term 1 due to the changing landscape associated with COVID-19.
For all who had the fortune to see it, the performance of the musical Shrek was little short of outstanding. From the reworking of the stage in Ramsay Hall to the exceptional set design, musicianship, acting, choreography, lighting, costuming, direction and production, Shrek was a truly remarkable production. The many months of rehearsals, the hours of scripting and at times the laborious practise of routines found their captivating theatrical expression on stage, much to the delight of packed audiences across the four nights of performance. To the many – on stage and off stage, who played roles that were so instrumental to the success of Shrek, I extend my deepest thanks. Special thanks are directed towards Kirk Hume (Director/Set Design), Peter Watters (Musical Director), Ange Newey (Choreography), Kimberly Jonceski (Production), Conrad Page (Stage Manager), Louella Perrett and her team (Costume), whose careful and supportive guidance was in due proportion to the quality of the product. And of course, special acknowledgement to the young men and women who gave such energy, zeal, vitality and talent to this very memorable event, one which will live on for appreciative audiences who shared their gratitude warmly at the curtain call each night.
As one would expect in a Jesuit school, the ‘faith in justice’ program where our young men serve the lost, the least and the lonely has also been active and robust. Over the last seven weeks, 51 students in Year 11 and 12 have participated in a Virtual Immersion Program with Khmer students (pictured right) in the Cambodian English Practice Program in slum communities in Phnom Penh. The boys raised funds and conducted online classes in English to extend Khmer students’ proficiency in the language, acquisition of which can make a significant difference to job opportunities and livelihoods. Students in Years 7 to 9 have been busy with the Garate Project, making sandwiches, packing toiletry sets and snack packs for those living on the streets in Sydney. Much more than a program in civic duty, this is where the Christian message of the gospel is lived out in daily life, one where young men commit to that inimitable teaching in Matthew Ch 25 – ‘whatever you do to the least … you do unto me’.
Over the last fortnight the assessment regime has intensified in order to round off the teaching and learning program for the semester. This is always a demanding time but one that is the corollary of upper primary and secondary school as it progressively prepares the boys for higher order studies. There is no averting the demands that are placed on schools, particularly with the requirements associated with NAPLAN, ACARA reporting frameworks which need to be completed by the end of June, and the compliance that sits in an environment subject to inspections conducted by the NSW Educational Standards Authority (NESA). As we move towards the final week of the term some of the pressure is relieved somewhat, but the need to attend to these many aspects of the learning program through the assessment regime is very real. Reports that formalise progress across the semester will be sent home via the College portal by the end of next week.
As is abundantly apparent, the winter sporting season is up and running. We have been blessed with wonderful weather over recent weeks that has seen such widespread participation from the boys across a range of codes and activities. The scale of the program is worthy of recognition in its own right – 38 Rugby teams, 33 Soccer teams, 9 AFL teams, 6 Volleyball teams, Tai Kwon Do, Fencing and the list goes on, in addition to the 150 boys involved in Debating across four discrete competitions. These activities bring much by way of personal formation and growth producing fitness, skill development, teamwork and perhaps as important as anything, the experience of winning with grace and losing with dignity. The latter forms the crucible of life, where in the years ahead the boys will experience success and failure, drawing upon the resilience and resolve that has been part of their formative days.
Out of the sightline a small contingent of staff has been touring New South Wales and participating in Country Boarding Expos. Over the last week, Griffith, Wagga Wagga and Canberra have held functions to bring together past, present and future members of the Riverview community. These are very special gatherings for they bring together those who represent different generations of the College’s history to share their stories and build community across the decades. At the Wagga gathering, for example, two very special guests joined the dinner – Mrs Barbara Parnell, whose late husband was an Old Boy (OR 1948) and whose six sons attended Riverview, and Greg Gooden, who graduated in 1953 was also present. In contrast, Oscar Williams represented the other end of the spectrum, having graduated in 2020 and who is now one of four of last year’s graduates studying Medicine. This gathering alone spanned three quarters of a century of graduates, giving insight into the breadth and the reach of the Riverview community.
It is indeed a burgeoning calendar, one that gives deep cause for gratitude. The opportunities for growth and formation in our young men are quite limitless in many ways and it is timely to consider these as the fading light of term begins to come into view.