There is no dispute that COVID-19 has had a seismic impact globally and is an event unlike anything we have experienced in our life-times. The impact of COVID has varied enormously from country to country and then within countries, different sectors and groups have been affected very differently.
However; within NSW unquestionably the group who I have felt for most throughout the last four months are our Year 12 students. At the most crucial time of their 13 years of schooling, the carpet has been whipped out from under their feet and it has felt like they have been living precariously on a surface of shifting sand. Almost every week they have had their plans changed. At a time when students crave structure and predictability, the last four months have been a time of constant uncertainty. For their last term of school they have been online rather than at school in person, they were told that they would return to school to do their Trials and at the last minute the NSW government made the decision that Trial exams could not be held in person and so they had to complete their Trials online, at home. This was then followed by weeks of speculation and indecision about what was happening with the HSC final exams which have ended up being delayed by three weeks. In addition to all of these changes, the traditional Year 12 student final events and rites of passage have had to be either cancelled or modified. This has certainly been a very tough year for our Year 12 students.
Given the stress of the last four months, we could quite easily have expected our Year 12 students to throw in the towel and to give up. But in fact, I feel that the converse has happened. Although it has been difficult to maintain their motivation for so long, the Year 12 students have persevered, persisted and with determination hung in there. Speaking with them they have accepted the situation for what it is and have tried to make the very best of a very challenging and frustrating time.
Although it has felt like a very long time coming, we now find ourselves in Year 12’s last week of formal schooling before they celebrate their Graduation on Sunday with a Drive Through at school followed by an online ceremony in the afternoon. The reality is now finally sinking in that the student’s schools days are over and their final exams will actually happen.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Year 12 students for the remarkable way in which they have conducted themselves over the past four months as they have navigated all of the changes outlined above. They are a year group of whom the whole Moriah community can be very proud. With all they have experienced, although understandably frustrated and annoyed at times, they have handled themselves with great grace and dignity. As a year group they have demonstrated incredible maturity and have been very respectful of the High School Executive members as we have tried to work through the last term together. They could quite easily have become resentful and difficult to work with but in fact the absolute opposite has been the case. I have always been a believer that when times get tough that is when you see the true character of a person. This has certainly been the situation with our Year 12 students as they have handled all the curve balls which have been thrown at them and they have shown their true character. It certainly hasn’t been an easy time for any of us but I think in many ways the events of the last few year have unified the group. Times of adversity and challenge can either divide or bring a group together and I am so happy to say that I think COVID has unified this incredible group of young women and men. There is an old saying that no one ever remembers how you started the race, they only remember how you finish. This is so true for our current Year 12 students as they will be remembered for their incredible resilience, perseverance and the very gracious way in which they have just gotten on with their studies in the face of extreme challenge and adversity.
I am so incredibly proud of our Year 12 students and it has been an absolutely pleasure to have been their Head of High School for the past 12 months. The growing respect I have felt from them and for them has been a highlight of my first year in this role. 2021 is a year I will not forget in a very long time and I know that I will look back at these Moriah graduates with great fondness. I have truly appreciated the growing bond we have shared, the banter, the chats, the vigorous debates and the many laughs. At the beginning of this year I could never have predicted the respect I would developed by the end of the year for this incredible group of young people.
We wish all the Year 12 students the very best as they complete their formal learning this week, as they start Stuvac next week and then commence their final HSC exams from 9 November. On behalf of the whole Moriah College community we cannot be prouder of the graduating class of 2021!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Hemphill is the Head of High School at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.