Principal’s Valedictory Address

On Friday 18 October, we bid farewell to our Class of 2019 at our Valedictory Assembly. We celebrated all they have achieved in their six years of education at Salesian College Chadstone, reflecting on the journey they have completed, and what lies ahead. In my final address, I commended the Class of 2019 for making the most of the opportunities that were afforded to them at Salesian, while encouraging them to embrace their futures with the same spirit. The Class of 2019 leaves us having made a unique contribution to the history of Salesian College Chadstone, and we wish them all the very best in their upcoming exams. I share with you below my Valedictory address.

“The best endings resonate because they echo a memory, a word, a phrase, or an image from your story that prompts a sense of joy, nostalgia or satisfaction.”

In life it is important that we know and accept when something has reached its finale. Whether we refer to it as closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter; what matters is that we accept when something is over, leave those memories in the past, cherish them and remember that endings are not bad things, they just mean that something else is about to begin.

Today we gather to formalize the end of the Class of 2019’s time at the College. We have acknowledged and celebrated their achievements and recognize that this group of fine young men have, by and large, done themselves and the College proud. The small size of the cohort hasn’t prevented them from making their mark, providing the odd challenge or leaving us with many moments to cherish.

We reflect on this group of young men, the gifts they have shared, the joys they have brought us over the past six years and wish them well as they set out on their next stage of their journey. The first element is completing their exams to the best of their ability, before going out into the world representing themselves, their family and the College in the finest light possible.

Their departure will conjure up a range of conflicting emotions for all of us, especially for the boys themselves. Some will be melancholy, wishing their time here at Chaddy would last forever; there will be some who can’t wait to get out of here, there will be some who are anxious as they contemplate the future, and some leaving with a sense of trepidation or perhaps even fear. Some will be reflective; looking back with a genuine fondness, whilst others might struggle to recollect a fond memory or two. Whatever the case, know that all of these feelings are understandable. I do hope, however, that you all leave with a tinge of sadness and that in time you can look back with fondness on the experiences you have had, the lessons you have learnt and most importantly the friends you have made here at the College.

As I began to prepare for this speech, I was struggling to come up with a theme, a message or some words of wisdom for you to take away. After delivering thirteen such speeches, I searched for a new way of saying the same thing. I tossed around a few ideas without any real inspiration, I knew I wanted to talk about opportunity and excuses but lacked any real direction as to where I would take it. As is often the case, inspiration came when I least expected it. Last Friday morning, listening to Fr Laurie’s homily, as he reflected on the Gospel of the day, lightning struck. The gist of the Gospel and Fr Laurie’s homily was that the Apostles were asking Jesus for more faith and he just told them that what they have, if used well, will get them through. In other words they can’t wait around for conditions to be perfect, they needed to take the gifts they had and get out and live today. This tied in beautifully with my initial thoughts of making the most of every opportunity and not letting life’s obstacles to become excuses that paralyse you and your growth. So it is with this in mind that I offer the following.

Each year I speak of the everyday events to which you have become accustomed, things that have provided a sense of familiarity and of belonging.  Today I’m going to take it one step further and talk about the opportunities that you have grasped over the past six years. The friends you have made, the relationships developed with staff, down ball games played, canteen lunches you have enjoyed, the re-heated lunches and toasties you have prepared, the College song you have sung, the Community Weeks you have participated in, the ACC sporting teams you have represented, the warmth and welcome you have availed yourself of at Student Reception. These were all opportunities, opportunities that you have seized. All of which have contributed to making your time here at the College that little more enjoyable, a little simpler, a little richer or simply better.

Situations life throws up are not always positive, there are always things that make life that little harder. These moments can be moments of learning, or growth, or road blocks if allowed to be. Its experiences such as these here that you won’t be sad to leave behind; bells and timetables, the endless hours of homework, having to remain clean shaven, conforming to uniform rules, the hard work, the frustration and the stress of assessments, and possibly even the sight of the old man not wearing any shoes, but you have survived and are probably a better person for having experienced them. So hopefully you’ll say ‘How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’ Perhaps you’ll leave in the knowledge that in sometimes in life, but definitely here, there are always many more moments of joy, or enlightenment, satisfaction or feelings of success and pride than there are down times.

Each year as we farewell another group and acknowledge everything they have contributed to the College, we ask ourselves what it is that we will remember about this group of boys, what indelible mark have they left on the College? What will we lose as they walk out the College gate?

Over the past six years we have chased the Class of 2019 for homework and challenged their behaviour, allowing us to get to know the likes of Nick, Stefan, Jason, Chris and Tim. Reminded boys about their hair as it got ‘big’, none bigger than that of Nicholas, Mathew, George, Jason and Ben. We have nagged them about shaving, and general appearance, but all the while nurtured and, cared for you, encouraged you, simply because you were our boys.

It is our hope that you will take these lessons, good or bad, with you, and that a small part of Salesian College Chadstone will remain with you no matter what. To act as a reminder when you need something to lean on. To act as a source of inspiration, or just be that small voice in your hearts that will be with you always, comforting, directing and reassuring you.

If not already, you will come to realize that all of your teachers will have had a profound impact on you. As we have worked with you unconsciously we have molded and nurtured you into the young man you are today. It may not be obvious to you now but sometime in the future, in a moment of reflection it will hit you, and you will realise that you learnt this or believe that because of what one of your teachers said or did all those years ago. As you leave, I hope that you take with you the values espoused in your time here at the College and become the great men you have the potential to be. We sit here today with pride having watched you grow, we share your joy of completing your secondary studies, and we share your sense of triumph, your feeling of accomplishment for getting through. Many of us will shed a tear as we say goodbye. Saint John Bosco asks us as Salesian staff to not only love you but ensure you knew it. I believe we succeeded. Remember this always. The nurturing and caring is done, it is time to move on. We will always be here hoping and praying you will go on to fulfil your dreams, your hopes and aspirations and one day you will return to share your story.

In this world there are two types of people, those who take up the opportunities life offers and those who consciously or unconsciously pass them up and then make excuses for themselves.

The vast majority of you have taken up the opportunities placed before you here at the College and have used them to make sure that you and the College are better for you having done so. Whether it be Jaylen, Chris, Nick and co tearing up the sports fields, or Jack and Harry performing on stage, or the academic feats of the likes of Jed, Dylan, Liam, Seaton and Joseph, or simply Josh and the VCAL boys continuing to teach us not to take life too seriously, and to always look for the fun in what we are doing. We have marveled at your many gifts and talents.

In taking up these opportunities you have achieved so much, grown considerably and brought great joy to the community. Regardless of the nature of what you have done or achieved,  your actions or achievements have all contributed to making you the person you are, helping to shape every detail about you and to making Salesian College Chadstone a better place.

Your gifts and contributions have added greatly in building our community. You have impacted on us in ways you may never truly understand, in the warmth of that simple smile or greeting, in sharing the highs and lows with my fellow Tiger supporters Nick, Johnathon and Dion, in the acts of kindness and the gestures of appreciation.

We will remember your willingness to support each other, to accept and respect each other’s differences, working together to make this community stronger. Amongst your many achievements, the friendships you have established and the bond you share is probably the greatest.

As a community we have witnessed your development over six years and in particular over the past 12 months. We have seen you blossom in your relationships with the Sacred Heart Girls, moving from the shy, awkward boys at the Year 10 Social to the suave, well groomed, mature young men we witnessed at the Year 12 Formal. We watched with concern as you learnt to party, none more so than Nick Stathopoulos. We have shared in your stories and grown with you.

We watched as you developed into confident and talented young leaders, never more evident than the examples set by your captains Bo, Dimitri and Nick.  In the blink of an eye, the end is here, your rule is over, your time here is about to become a distant high school memory.

Having acknowledged what you have brought to the College community, and recognising that most of you have taken life by the horns, making the most of your God given gifts and talents, I ask, what life lessons will you take away? Will you dwell in the past living off the scores achieved and reliving old times, or will you use the relationships forged, experiences enjoyed, and the good times shared as a base for future greatness?

It is important as you leave that you know that you have given much to this Community. There is not a single achievement, a single event or a single person, not even in a single moment more noteworthy than the rest. Your legacy is the sum of all the contributions made by you, all of you, over the past six years.

Your time at Salesian began as little boys, you leave here as fine young men. You’ve completed your education here at Salesian College, an education grounded on the values of Jesus Christ, informed by the teachings of John Bosco. I encourage you to use the lessons learnt and values witnessed to serve as a very sound platform to launch yourselves into your futures. Our great hope is that you will move forward to become the great men you were born to be.

I encourage you all to continue to take up all the opportunities life provides, challenge yourself and live life to the full. Don’t hide behind excuses.

If you should stall or hard times befall you, and you begin to wonder how you can move forward, I ask you to remember these three questions and use them as motivation.

If not now, When?

If not here, Where?

If not me, Who?

So as Jesus asked of his disciples I ask that you to take the gifts you have and the learnings you have received and go out into this world and make a difference. Don’t wait for the perfect time or conditions as they may never come. Each of you have the gifts and talents to make a difference.

I conclude by saying we may regret that our time together has ended, but we will never regret what we had or the time shared.” And as Dr Seuss says “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Good luck to the Year 12 graduating Class of 2019, and God bless.

Rob Brennan