Dear Parents, Friends, Staff and Students of Caroline Chisholm College,
Last week we were honoured to host the high achieving students from our graduating class of 2019. These were students who excelled in their subjects, achieved exceptional results and are now embarking on wonderful futures. We also recognised our College Dux for 2019, Ellie Loughman. As is our custom, Ellie was invited to share with us some thoughts about her journey at Caroline Chisholm College. With her permission, I wish to share with you some of what she said. The impact these words had on our students and staff was profound.
My identity within this community has been very much grounded in my involvement in STEM co-circular activities in partnership with my close friend Simone, and recently, the Student Learning Committee’s first celebration of National Science Week. However, I would like to propose a new legacy for myself, a legacy where I reiterate my relatability to you all. I want to emphasise that I too felt that standing at a distinguished achiever assembly was an impossibility. The HSC for me was never something I felt ready for, rather ironically. The idea of standing here seemed so unbelievably out reach. I recognise that each person’s experience of school is unique and not something I wish to standardise. I do not plan to present a list of strategies that worked for me because the reality is that it may not work for you. If you are to take anything away from my speech let it be that you are worthy of success, you are distinguished in your own right and that despite pressure from others or in my case, yourself, your effort is enough.
I honestly believe that I can be example to each of you who often feel average. While I guarantee, you are all more than ordinary, it is easy to feel that the efforts of your peers outway your own. While I have never considered myself an outstanding student or someone with the potential to be awarded with such prestige as ‘DUX’. I am here today, I hope, as testament to the power of perseverance, welcomed failure and a pretty legendary support network.
I would like to take this opportunity to recognise potentially biggest motivator in my Year 12 journey, friendship and mentoring. I cannot accept such as title without recognising the dedication of the staff at the College. To all the teachers who taught the class of 2019 from 7 to 12, I thank you for your diligent commitment to our learning on behalf of my peers. The difference you make in your students is incalculable. Mrs Mills, my homeroom teacher of 6 years, your humility, comforting words, hugs and kind smile continue to inspire me. You are a role model in my life, thank you. For the beauty of a teacher, whether it be English or Legal Studies is their power to educate students with more than subject knowledge, their wisdom projects into various life lessons.
I’m sure we can all agree, there is no better feeling that surrounding yourself with people who love and support you completely, something I believe is critical to any goal or ambition. The beauty of my friendships at the College extend beyond a high-school dramatic façade. I cannot thank CCC enough for providing me with an abundance of students who fundamentally have become my family. I encourage you all to immerse yourself in a unity, a sisterhood of girls who care, not about marks but about effort. It motivates me more than I can ever share with you. Each of them holds a place in my heart and while some sit behind me and others venture into equally distinguished pathways I am so wholeheartedly proud.
My second HSC motivator, and perhaps the most difficult for me was self-belief. For those who know me you may know that directly after finishing HSC I flew alone to Cairns for two months. As someone who finds no greater joy than relaxing at home with my family or occasionally heading into the Plaza, leaving my family over Christmas and New Year was more challenging than any test I faced in the HSC. Yet, as evidence to what I had learnt at CCC, I tried to embrace every opportunity. My point being, it is okay to be uncomfortable sometimes, to feel displaced. The HSC is a key representation of this notion, feeling in limbo quite regularly. Yet the very same way I eagerly embraced my family after landing back in Sydney I can say is incredibly similar to the feeling of dropping your pen at the end of an exam or exiting the gates on graduation. My self-belief was channeled primarily through my friends and family. I struggled often to feel accomplished in myself. Even when I received my ATAR I can’t say it was immediate pride I felt - I was relieved. I was relieved that the hours at Penrith library when they would have to kick me out and the cramps in my hand were worth it. The pride comes when you realise you did everything you can and more.
My family have always taught me to approach a test motivated by the fact you will provide the marker with all you can, not with what you can’t. Do not be afraid to put in the work. The reality is that in any single year group 150 people can’t be DUX, but you most definitely can be distinguished. You can be proud, be proud that you gave it your best shot. Perspective is the key I believe to surviving the HSC. The upcoming stress or anxiety you may each feel is valid. The best thing you can do is channel it to work in your favour. I am a living example of this possibility.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I leave you with 3 key things: the importance of friendship, self-belief and perspective. You are each incredible. Best of luck in your studies. And in the wise words of Harry Styles, treat people with kindness.
I am grateful to Ellie for sharing her insights with us and for giving us permission to publish her words in this newsletter.
Finally, I would like you to invite your family and friends and acquaintances to our Open Night on Monday March 9 from 4.30pm to 8.00pm. We will be holding presentations in our new Performance Centre at 5.30pm and 6.30pm and the college will be showcasing excellent learning in all areas of school life. Tours will be conducted by our students, who are our best advertisement. It is always a very popular night and I look forward to seeing many of you there.
Last Thursday and Friday our teachers of Religious Education spent time away from school on a spiritual retreat to support them in their work. I want to share with you the prayer of St Teresa of Avila that we used on that retreat and invite you to pray it as it applied to your mission as a parent, a colleague, a friend.
We believe your Spirit fills us,
and empowers us to respond to your presence.
May your Spirit kindle within us the fire of your love.
Christ has no body now but mine,
no hands but mine,
no feet on earth but mine.
Mine are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on the world.
Mine are the feet through he walks about doing good.
Mine are the hands with which he blesses people now.
Empower me to be your eyes, feet and hands in the world.
Dr Greg Elliott - Principal