Friday 30 January 2015

New Year, New Directions

Despite the persistent rain, an air of excitement, anticipation and not a little apprehension pervaded the grounds on the first day of classes. Approximately 250 new boys arrived at the College, the majority beginning their journey at Saint Ignatius’ Riverview in Year 5 along with the boys who are entering secondary school in Year 7. All hands were on deck to ensure that the new boys were greeted by senior students and staff, in an effort to ensure that their uncertainties quickly dissipated as they were escorted to House areas and classrooms. Given the magnitude of the transition to the new House structure, together with many meetings and events programmed for the day, it unfolded with considerable precision and effectiveness, thanks to the staff who have worked on the orientation and induction process over the latter part of 2014 and the early weeks of the year. The return to classes for 2015 was consummated with a school mass held in the Ramsay Hall; indeed, a time to come together in solidarity to thank God for the wonderful endowments of the educational program at the College and the opportunities that reside in it.

Over the break the perennial activities that speak to social justice saw their expression, both at the College and in distant parts of the world. Prior to Christmas the Ignatian Children’s Holiday Camp wove its magic with 32 children of significant disability who resided at the College under the care of senior students and medical staff. For four days these young people were treated to the best care that could be provided, culminating in a visit from Santa Claus to celebrate the festive season. Early in the New Year the Cana Camp accommodated 30 homeless people in Kevin Fagan Boarding House, providing a bed, regular food and some special highlights, including a trip to Sydney Harbour from the wharf at the College. A combination of Old Boys and current students, bridging the past and the present, facilitated this program that gave special attention to the marginalised who are in such desperate need of support.

Beyond the shores of Australia, four separate immersions travelled to Cambodia, Nepal, India and the Philippines, respectively, to work alongside disadvantaged communities and to bring a sense of hope, solidarity and practical assistance. From building houses to digging wells, visiting prisons and working in orphanages and schools, many senior students learned the meaning of global citizenship, in the crucible of poverty and adversity. Why? As Fr Ross reflected during his debrief with the boys in the Philippines:

To conscientise the boys; to remind them that ‘from those to whom much has been given, much is expected’; to forge the link between faith and justice, to provide groundwork for a future life of service.

Herein lies the fusion point between faith and action – the heartland of Jesuit education and formation.

Congratulations are extended to the students in the graduating class on the quality of their results. Seven students received Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores in the top 1% of New South Wales (and by implication, Australia), 41 boys attained scores in the top 5% and 80 boys in all secured scores in the top 10%. Congratulations are extended to the Dux of the College, Gianni Taranto, who not only received an ATAR of 99.65 but also first place in New South Wales in Chinese Extension. Congratulations are also extended to Proxime Accessit, Henry Fisher, who secured a rank score of 99.6 and also secured second place in Studies of Religion. While a number of subjects presented very strong performance profiles, the exceptional results in Chinese Extension deserve special mention, registering first, second, fourth and fifth in the State – almost a clean sweep of the subject. And, when aggregated the boys in the graduating class attained 48 E4 results and 306 Band 6 results, which eclipsed the performance of the high achieving graduates of 2013. There is much to be proud of.

The New Year brings with it a new and defining period in Riverview’s history. As much as a new academic year has arrived, so have the Strategic Directions 2015-2020, which have been the object of intense deliberation and refinement over the latter half of 2014. This document, which contains the key elements of the College’s intentioned strategic futures, will be released in a few weeks. At the same time, the new website and portal which contains improved functionalities and efficiencies is projected to be operative after months of construction. And, by late March the first conceptual design of the Master Plan is intended to be ready for consultation following 12 months of intensive work. These represent exciting futures for the College and speak to an inner Ignatian impulse for renewal and adaptation to contemporary circumstances and environments.

While there are many goals to pursue throughout the course of the year, there is much on the calendar that will keep all members of College community busy along the way. Over the coming weeks Parent Information nights will be held while the Immersion Reflection Evenings will profile the growth and experiences of the boys who gave so deeply of themselves to service over the break. The co-curricular program ramps up quickly; the new boys having nominated for various options and training regimens during the week. Perhaps most importantly, the academic program has begun in earnest and the climate around the school is palpably focussed and purposeful. It is indeed wonderful to be in a place where young men, impelled by a tradition that values faith and scholarship so deeply, are poised to challenge mediocrity and aspire to excellence. It is the Jesuit way. A mandate. A charter. A manifestation of the magis: that which seeks to offer deep engagement and consummate reward.

Best wishes for all that lies ahead.

Dr Paul Hine