Student Leadership

Last Wednesday I received an email from Gerard Mowbray with a video clip from the Sydney Morning Herald site of a valedictory speech given by the Senior Monitor (School Captain) of Christchurch Boys High School, New Zealand, at the school’s Year 12 graduation. Jake Baily had only recently been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and he came to the graduation from his hospital bed.

It is a very powerful speech and the response from his classmates, staff and parents is very moving.

On Thursday evening I played this 18-minute speech and the reaction to it, to the incoming school leaders of our six secondary schools with a senior cohort. They too were very moved by Jake’s speech and his courage.

Our school leaders had gathered at Riverwood Downs for the annual Leaders’ retreat that focuses on their role over the next year as they provide student leadership to their communities.

Every year I come away from that retreat so impressed by the calibre of our school leaders and that is only reinforced by my interaction with them during the year.

Our schools have different models of student leadership and different ways of choosing their leaders but my experience each year is that they always produce leaders of a very high standard.

In Jake Bailey’s speech there are so many references to and examples of leadership, including the self-doubt that sometimes initially accompanies those who are chosen for these roles, the support the leaders provide to each other and the support they receive from staff and their parents.

He particularly identifies what he refers to as their “moral strength” and goes on to outline how this value is expressed in his school.

For our school leaders, this sense of moral strength or, as it is sometimes expressed, moral purpose, is a critical part of their leadership roles.

In a Catholic school that moral purpose has as its source the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we take as our guiding light the teachings that Jesus has provided through his life here on earth and through his death and resurrection.

Jesus’ lessons to his disciples and followers focused on the need for them to be servants to God’s people and through this service, demonstrate the qualities of leadership that Jesus lived and proclaimed.

I look forward to working with our student leaders in the year ahead as together we serve the needs of their fellow students in their education in faith and in their formation as young men and women who will lead our communities through the quality of their service.

View Jake’s speech below.

Ray Collins Image
Ray Collins

Ray Collins is the Director of Schools within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. He is an authority on education issues.

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