Mrs Pauline Harvey-Short, Assistant Dean and Year 12 Co-ordinator
The final week of any school year is a significant one. Each student reflects on her efforts, achievements, and missed opportunities, in the hope of moving forward, improving outcomes, transitioning to new experiences and seeking closure. The final week for Year 12 is particularly special. It is intense, exciting, sad, fun, frustrating, too long, too short, too slow, too fast…
The School makes an effort to make the final few days both memorable and meaningful. What do we hope that the students will take with them from this experience? What is the aim of these five days? Will they look back and feel “Now I’ve had the time of my life… and I owe it all to you” or will they look forward believing they have been given the best possible foundation?
This week is crammed with experiences and emotion but it can also be regarded as a microcosm of their lives at Girls Grammar.
On Monday and Tuesday each Year 12 had the opportunity to reflect on the impact of Marrapatta. Throughout each student’s life at the School, Marrapatta has played an important role in her development. As a Year 8 fledgling Grammar girl, the Outdoor Education campus may have been a daunting but exciting experience where many first explored new independence, leadership opportunities and pushed their boundaries. This experience transitioned into Years 9 and 10 where students were more physically challenged, with higher expectations and encouragement to have greater belief in themselves and their abilities. As Year 11s, some progressed into leadership roles, assisting Marrapatta staff with the younger Year levels and helped these students enjoy Girls Grammar’s other campus. A select few senior students studying Physical Education also got to experience challenging life-saving activities. By returning to Marrapatta this week, the Year 12s had the opportunity to thank the staff at the Centre, consider the importance the outdoor experience played in their growth, share the fun moments and memories of camps and enjoy some quiet time with their friends. The chatter on the returning bus trip certainly reinforced this view where many belly laughs followed the sharing of camp stories from across five years.
Tuesday evening’s Valedictory Dinner is a time-honoured event, providing the students, their parents and staff with the opportunity to acknowledge the impending transition from school student to adult. Tradition and history play an important part in the life of any Grammar girl. Past students are highly valued by the School and it is no more evident than at this dinner where the Valedictory Address is delivered by an alumna. This year the guest speaker was Dr Emily Granger, cardiothoracic and transplant surgeon, Head Girl 1991, Queensland U21 cricket representative, and University Premier League Soccer team member. During her passionate speech, Dr Granger eloquently stated that Girls Grammar was more than books and buildings. What made it great were the girls; girls who are encouraged to develop a work ethic, team ethic and self belief. Through the lenses of her extraordinary remote area surgical experiences, Dr Granger encouraged the valedictorians to find something they love; take the unconventional path; make a positive contribution; and inspire and be inspired.
A fitting conclusion to Dr Granger’s speech was the advice, “chase your dreams and never give up. Nil sine labore”. Many of the soon-to-be past students no doubt reflected on their dreams of travel, tertiary study, friends, happiness and making a difference.
This dinner reinforces fundamental concepts on which the School is based: the celebration of the School community; the inspiration of our alumnae; the significance of a diverse range of experiences in each individual’s life; and the formal acknowledgement of meaningful milestones. For some, this event brings home the reality that their high school days have almost concluded.
Wednesday encapsulated a typical day at the School: House assemblies; formal, academic tasks; organizational information detailed for smooth-running activities later in the week; the recording of important feedback and student opinions; food, fun, dancing, and social comment; and a meeting to complete the day! This type of day, complex, busy and multi-faceted, would resonate with every Grammar girl.
Thursday saw Speech Day, the most formal community event of the year, and a celebration of the diverse and extraordinary achievements of members of the School family. Every Year 12 student crossed the stage to receive her Graduation Certificate and was formally acknowledged by the School. The final speech delivered by the Head Girls, Angelique Sweep and Lucinda Tonge, who have led the School with dignity, empathy, intelligence, collegiality and good humour, allowed them to reflect on the Student Council’s motto for the year: Feel the G-FORCE; be the G-FORCE; embrace the Sisterhood. This had provided the Year 12 cohort with a catch-cry that focused their energy to achieve many goals. The strength of this cohort, as typified by the Student Council, is their pride in the School, an ability to turn imaginative ideas into reality and to do this with enthusiasm and genuine commitment, whether it be a ‘flash mob’, stunning musical performances, or thoughtful, humorous, instructional videos.
The last day of this emotional week for the Year 12s provided an opportunity for staff and students to say final goodbyes and leave the School in a dignified and joyous manner. The girls exited the School as they were welcomed as Year 8s, with the war cry – the meaningless words that will always have personal significance for every Grammar girl.
This last week has given each girl time to reflect, to say goodbye, to consider her future, and to appreciate the importance of ceremony and tradition. There has also been an opportunity for each one to consider the role the School has played in her development from Years 8 to 12, to consider her dreams, and the place her family and friends have, and will continue to have, in her life.
When sisters stand shoulder to shoulder, who stands a chance against them?
Pam Brown (Australian Poet)