From the Principal

This week we farewelled the Class of 2020 with a COVID safe Valedictory event. Whilst it was disappointing not to be able to gather all the boys together or have their parents attend, we are hopeful that the boys understand that we did everything humanly possible within the guidelines to provide them with one final hoorah. Breaking the Valedictory events into three different sessions made for a subdued gathering, but we are hopeful that when the footage of each of the sessions is edited together it will provide all families, especially our Year 12 families with an experience close to what is our traditional celebration. Our intention is to release the video on Friday November 20 at 7:30pm to allow families to gather and watch together. Full details will be provided to all families on how to access the video once it has been finalised.

My blog this week is a copy of my Valedictory speech I shared with the boys on Monday. I provide it for your perusal and hope that you enjoy it and are able to reflect on it with your sons. I can’t express the level of my admiration for the Year 12 boys as they have consistently rolled with the punches COVID has thrown. It would have been perfectly understandable if they threw in the towel, or worse still, reacted badly every time they lost another of their traditional events. Instead they soldiered on, remained positive and just got on with the job at hand. They are a credit to themselves, their families and the College. I congratulate them on their maturity and positive mindset and thank their leaders for keeping them on track. We will certainly miss these wonderful young men.

‘I stand before you today to deliver my final Valedictory speech, something I find hard to believe and hard to reconcile. Maybe it befits the craziness of 2020. I ask, who would have believed us if we told them this time last year what 2020 would look like. It has been described as unprecedented, which in many ways is stating the obvious. It has been a hard year but as with anything in life, I hope we can reflect and take learnings from it, identify the positives and then celebrate that it has come to an end.

How does one sum up a year like 2020, a year when so much has been taken away from us, a year that has caused so much uncertainty and caused so much damage physically, emotionally, economically and socially? Well, the way in which I would summarise this year in light of this community is to bask in the resilience I have witnessed. I looked on in amazement as the community bandied together like never before to ensure the fabric or essence of this great College was protected and maybe even enhanced. To highlight a few of the examples might wrongly be interpreted as meaning that the other examples are of less importance, or worse still, don’t matter, which would be the furthest thing from the truth. Rather, the examples are simply that. Examples like the way in which so many of our boys adapted to remote learning and stayed engaged and connected, how our teachers rallied and embraced a whole new way of teaching, the support we offered each other as we made our way through the maze the pandemic created, our remote St John Bosco’s Oratory Week, Virtual Mother’s and Father’s Day celebrations, Virtual tours, Virtual information nights and initiatives organised by the Year 12 leaders to support each other are all examples of how we joined forces to ensure 2020 was as good as we could make it.  A true lesson in making the most of every opportunity and not letting life’s obstacles become excuses that paralyse us.

What I believe 2020 has shown us is that nothing can be taken for granted and that concepts such as resilience, agility and enjoying the simple things in life are not merely catch cries of life coaches and motivational speakers. Rather, they are crucial skills that we must hone to ensure we are ready and able to meet any of the challenge’s life throws our way.

The focus of today’s celebration is to acknowledge the Class of 2020. We have acknowledged and celebrated their achievements throughout this celebration and I now wish to highlight the fine group of young men they have shown themselves to be. They have been able to show themselves to be resilient and bursting with class and maturity under very difficult circumstances. They have done themselves and the College proud. The courage and attitude of you boys, especially those of you who faced additional adversity, exacerbated by COVID-19 has been remarkable. You were able to continue on in spite of the challenges you faced. You soldiered on in spite of one rite of passage after another being taken from you. Your resilience and maturity have left an indelible mark, a legacy that others will admire and be able to build on into the future.

Spending a significant part of the year in remote learning hasn’t prevented the Class of 2020 from making their mark, providing the odd challenge or leaving us with many moments to cherish. They have shared their gifts, brought many joys and shown great leadership, especially during this year, giving us much to celebrate. We wish them well as they set out on the journey ahead, in their exams and for their lives beyond the College gates.

As we reflect on the year, some will speak of 2020 as being ugly, with justification, but rather than fighting against the tide that the year pitched up, the Class of 2020 worked with it. They went ugly. First, they engaged in the inaugural ugly tie day, which saw some hideous examples of men’s fashion on display. The ties of the eventual winners Ed Feehan, Ed D’Rozario and Max Phillips would all challenge for the ugliest tie ever, if there was to be such an event.

Continuing the theme of ugly, some boys have taken it to a whole new level. Whilst never being formally announced, nor creating any fanfare, there has been a prominent trend throughout the year. The lengths (pardon the pun) that some of our boys went to with their hairstyles was something to behold. Modelling an ugly hairdo has taken persistence and dedication to another level. This was something I’d wished they’d applied to their studies, however, it has been said before that men can only do one thing at a time.  Now whilst the ugly tie competition was very quickly narrowed to a few real contenders, the ugliest hair style appears to welcome a new contender every week. Some students like Finn, Sam and Rylie, to name a few, have excelled in growing and shaping some pretty ordinary hairstyles. The boys took it so seriously that they employed their very own hairstylist who specialised in creating these less than attractive cuts. My only hope is that Ed studies hard as I’m not sure there is a future in hairdressing for him. Now far be it for me to be too critical as I too modelled a very similar style in the eighties, often referred to as the ‘bogan mullet’. Whilst I rightfully copped flack for my fashion faux par immortalised in my wedding photos, I put up a defence, as unfortunately as the trailblazers of this haircut, we knew no better. So I ask, aren’t we meant to learn from the mistakes of others and not repeat them? Yet here we are three decades on, and not only have you boys fallen into the same mistake, you appear to have taken it to a whole new level.

Each year as we farewell another group and acknowledge everything they have contributed to the College, we ask ourselves, what is it 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 gates?

What I will remember of your past six years are the boys of the Class of 2020 who never quite got the gist of what being a student meant. Never quite understanding the concept of completing class work or homework, never quite considering the need for study. For these boys school was a social gathering. It was about being with their mates and having fun, a philosophy lived out extremely well by the likes of  Vincent, Ryan, Massimo and co. There were some I was never confident of getting to this point because not only did they fail to grasp the concept of being a student and adhering to College expectations, accepted norms or practices appeared to be beyond them. Simple things like being clean shaven and wearing the uniform never really gelled with them either, did it James or Zac? Regardless of all these things, we nurtured and cared for you all, encouraged you, and loved you, because you were our boys.

In all seriousness, the vast majority of you have taken the opportunities offered to you, contributing to your own growth and making the College a better place. Whether it be sportsmen like Thomas Lambiris tearing up a soccer pitch or Cooper Roach ploughing through the water, the likes of Campbell Gruiters, Jack Martin, Lukas Herrera, Phillip McKenzie, and Oscar Milic performing on stage or Raheem just being cool, you all will be remembered. Our scholars and multiple academic award winners including Jordan, Jacob, Scott, Oscar, Connor and Keith will be remembered for doing what they do best, achieving outstanding results. We will remember the VCAL boys led by Tj and Sam who used their skills to build something, organise events or raising funds whilst not taking life too seriously. We give thanks for all your many gifts and talents.

This leads me to ask, what is it that you will take with you? What will be the memories you cherish? Surely the everyday events to which you have become so accustomed will be sadly missed. Things that have provided a sense of familiarity and belonging will become distant but fond memories.  The friends you have made, the down-ball battles won, canteen lunches you have enjoyed, renditions of the College song, Community Weeks enjoyed and ACC sporting teams you have represented will now form a rich past. I hope you remember that they helped shape you into the person you are today. Those experiences contributed to making your time here at the College that little more enjoyable, a little simpler or just better.

I’m sure there have been things you would rather forget and leave behind; bells and timetables, endless hours of homework, having to be clean shaven, uniforms, hard work, the frustration and stress of assessments, and possibly even the thought of another one of my long speeches, but you have survived all these things and hopefully you’ll say ‘How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’ You’ll leave knowing that perhaps in life, but definitely here, that there has always been many more moments of joy, or enlightenment, satisfaction or feelings of success and pride than down times.

These things remind us of what can be achieved and the joy that can be brought to the community when students are willing to take up the opportunities on offer and share their gifts and talents. Every student’s achievements, contributions or actions go towards making them the person they are, whilst helping to making Salesian College Chadstone the brilliant community it is. If you take these things away you wouldn’t be the person you are today, and the school would be the lesser for it. So, no regrets, just memories and learnings.

Giving of yourself is the most important gift you have given the College. Over the last six years, you boys have contributed greatly to building the Salesian College Chadstone community. You have impacted on us in ways you may never truly understand; the warmth of a simple smile, a greeting, a catch up with fellow Tigers supporters like Adam, Eamon and co. to dissect a game, an act of kindness or a gesture of appreciation are the things which will remain with us. Your willingness to support each other, especially in a year such as this, to accept and respect each other’s differences, and working together to make this community stronger. Amongst your many achievements, the friendships that you have established and the bond you share is probably the greatest.

The leadership you have demonstrated, especially in your captains Rob Amendola, Adam Stone and Jacob Curry, has been outstanding. You have set the bar high for those who follow. We have witnessed you become the confident and talented young men you are today.  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.

Whilst you may not realize it now, the past six years will have had a profound impact on you. Just as your parents have silently moulded and nurtured you into the young man you are today, encounters with your teachers are likely to have been doing likewise. It may not be obvious to you now but later in life, in a moment of reflection you’ll think; I learnt that or feel this because of what one of your teachers said or did all those years ago. As you leave, I hope that you remember your Salesian journey, because it has helped form you into the wonderful young men you are today. We share your joy of completing your secondary studies, and we share your sense of triumph and your feeling of accomplishment for getting through. A small part of us will leave with you.  John Bosco asks us to love in a way that ensures you boys know it, so we hope you leave knowing that you are loved. I am confident that the staff at Salesian College have looked after and cared for you, they have nurtured you to the point where it is time to move on. We will stay, hoping you will go on to fulfil your dreams, your hopes and aspirations.

It is our hope that you will take the lessons, good or bad with you and that a small part of Salesian College Chadstone will go with you to act as a reminder when needed, to provide something to lean on in hard times, 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.

Your departure will engender a range of conflicting emotions for us all, especially for me as I farewell this great College. Melancholy will be a common feeling for those wishing their time here at Chaddy would never end; whilst others will be exhilarated at the thought of getting out of here. For others it will be an anxious time as they contemplate the future with trepidation or perhaps even fear as the crutch of the College is taken from beneath them. Whatever the case, know that all of these feelings are real and understandable.

I hope that you all leave with a tinge of sadness as you reflect back with a genuine fondness, recollecting fondly experiences you have enjoyed, lessons you have learnt and most importantly the friends you have made here at the College over the past six years.

Having shared what you have brought to the College Community, I ask, what you will take away, how will you use what you have learnt? Will you focus on the practicalities of your education like Maths concepts learnt and scores achieved, or will it be measured in the relationships forged, experiences enjoyed, or the values shared? I know the community will measure your time here by the latter; the sense of joy you have provided, the sense of welcome and belonging you share and the sense of pride witnessed among you. Each one of you will be remembered fondly for who you are.

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 each and every one 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 and values 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.

My advice to you is that in moments of doubt, ask yourself these simple questions: What would St John Bosco do? If I don’t act, who will?

In life it is important that we know and accept when something has reached its end. Cherish the memories of the past and implement the lessons learnt in the future. Remember that endings are not bad things, they just mean that something else is about to begin.

“We may regret that our time together has ended, but we should never regret what we had or the gifts we shared.”

In the famous words of Dr. Seuss:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Good luck to the Year 12 graduating Class of 2020, and God bless.

Rob Brennan