Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview initiated the Friends Listen Assembly in 2015, in a call to be ‘men for others’. This senior school assembly speaks to cura personalis – where we show care for each and every student, at the deepest and most intimate of levels. It is a time when we gather as a school community to affirm that we are all welcomed, affirmed, included and valued. In 2015 Xavier Eales addressed the boys at the Friends Listen Assembly about his personal struggles with mental health over a number of years. It was a statement of great courage and honesty as he shared part of his private torment in the public space. On Wednesday, another senior student had the extraordinary trust and conviction to speak about the challenge he has experienced with his identity and his orientation. Two boys: different issues, yet both whose experience as an adolescent was affected by the developmental understanding of matters that were deeply personal and at times, difficult to reconcile. It is in that spirit that the call to be ‘men for others’ was intoned as friends listened, which in context of the lexicon of boys motto for the year, is to belong to ‘the pack which supports all of the wolves’. It is about acknowledgement of diversity and acceptance. Another ground breaker for the College, but one which supports the primacy of catholic social justice teaching on human dignity. And, the truth is that Saint Ignatius’ College is a community like any other, as its constituency brings with it a very wide raft of personal and pastoral issues that adds complexity yet richness to the very fabric of that community. At the conclusion of the assembly, the boys pulled on a shirt of their favourite sporting team, signifying while we are one school, we comprise much by way of difference. I wish to commend the boys on the manner in which they supported our young man during his personal statement, and to thank our Year 12 student who spoke with unfettered honesty and courage.
For the wrong reasons, students in the graduating class of 2017 gathered in the Dalton Chapel last Sunday afternoon to commemorate the loss of one of their own – taken all too soon in a road related event. Malu Nona was a much respected member of the boarding community during his years at the College, a boy known and loved by so many for his quiet and gentle manner and for his many gifts and talents. Three of his classmates spoke of his many admirable qualities, those that formed a man of such strength and character, whose loss is so deeply felt. Friends came and reminisced, reflected and prayed: some highly emotional that one so good and so young is no longer with us. But, they came to listen and to respond as a cohort to the immensity of that loss as a sign of their solidarity and respect for this fine young man. May he rest in peace.
Last week we passed the hump of the term and now confront a busy schedule in the push towards the mid-year break, which will arrive in just 13 schooling days. That the term and the year is moving rapidly is attested to by the arrival of the Year 11 Subject Selection process, which formally begins this week. This is a time of much discernment for our young men and their families as they consider subjects that will best provide access to the post graduate courses and careers they will pursue over the years ahead. In addition to the big picture, the boys need to consider the relative status and weightings of subjects in context of scaling, which carries its own independent determinant on the calculation of the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) score, which provides entry to various universities through the University Admissions Centre (UAC). This is a time of considerable introspection as the boys consider the subjects for which they have a predilection – those that they are interested in and for which they have demonstrated proficiency, the structure and the demands of the Higher School Certificate (HSC), even some of the variables such as the ‘cohort effect’, which can make the telling differences to performance and course entry further down the track.
On Friday a contingent of young men will arrive from Boston and New York as part of the United States Student Exchange Program. They will attend classes for a week before accompanying the other boys on their Service Program in Year 10. This program began in 2015 as a pilot group to complement the established exchange program with Clongowes Wood in Ireland, as part of the internationalisation of Jesuit education. Each year, we are encouraged by the Society of Jesus to ensure that our boys do not become comfortable with a hermetic educational experience confined to metropolitan Sydney. Hence, the boys undertake all manner of outward bound activities, from international student exchanges to immersions across South East Asia. In September, a reciprocal contingent of boys will travel to Boston and New York, respectively, to visit Boston High and Fordham Prep, both of which are highly regarded schools on the East Coast of the US. We wish our visitors well as they encounter life in Australia and the warmth and hospitality of the boys and their home stay families.
For those who are not aware, I have been granted sabbatical leave by the College Board to engage in some professional development and to undertake a couple of weeks of rest after five and a half years of service. I will be presenting a paper at an international conference in Athens before completing other aspects of the conference program and then spending some time on the Ionian Islands off the coast of Greece. In my absence, Mr Russell Newman will be Acting Principal and I will return for the recommencement of Term 3. As this is my last Viewpoint for some weeks, I wish all a very measured and purposeful end to the term and to a welcomed break over in the middle of the year.