Nothing upsets me more than hearing criticisms of our Moriah High School students. When I hear the students unfairly labelled as entitled, indulged, self-centred and uncaring, my “tiger father” instincts kick in and I become very defensive of my ‘Moriah sons and daughters’ as this is not my experience of the Moriah High School students.
Yes, they are typical teenagers who can be annoying, aggravating, rude and frustrating, who sometimes think the world revolves around them, and, at times, they can be far from perfectly behaved. But my experience is that teenagers the world over are exactly the same. However; although very similar to most teenagers, what differentiates our Moriah High Schoolers is their incredible ability to lead and organise project-based charity activities and to volunteer their time for the betterment of those less fortunate than themselves.
Throughout the year, our High School students support an enormous number of charities and community initiatives, and I can’t tell you how incredibly proud I have been of our wonderful High School students over the past week. Our students have been incredibly busy organising and delivering a variety of student-led and directed project-based leadership initiatives involving the whole High School student body. Far too often, we only associate leadership opportunities with our 18 formal student leaders, but this couldn’t be further from the truth at Moriah, as we have many students who do not hold a formal leadership position who are leading initiatives and making a profound difference to the lives of their fellow students and others less fortunate in the broader community and across the world.
Let me highlight for you one week at Moriah which illustrates the volume and diversity of leadership opportunities our students have been involved in.
Last Tuesday, our Year 12 student leaders organised a leadership symposium at Moriah for Year 12 student leaders from other Eastern Suburbs independent schools (including Masada) to reflect on their time in leadership over the past 12 months. We had over 40 students in attendance from a wide variety of schools. This event was very well received and enjoyed by the student leaders.
Also on Tuesday, a group of senior students organised our annual Lag B’Omer Hair Drive with students having their hair cut by a team of professionals in front of a large crowd of very supportive Moriah students. These students donated their hair to make wigs for children who have lost their own hair through chemotherapy or conditions such as alopecia. The students organising this event also raised funds for Zichron Menachem, a non-profit organisation in Israel that provides immediate, practical and long-term support for children with cancer and their families.
On Friday, we celebrated our annual Pink Breakfast in the gym with more than 600 people in attendance raising approximately $20,000 for breast cancer research. The student leaders of this event did an incredible job organising such a successful and large community event. Hundreds of High Schools students attended the breakfast and listened to three very inspirational speakers.
Our Sports Captains also launched the Moriah Push Up Challenge which will take place in June to shine a spotlight on the increasing number of Australians who die by suicide.
Finally, last night I had the absolute pleasure of attending our biennial House Drama Festival. Approximately 60 students from across our four Houses from all year groups participated in Drama Fest this year. This event is again completely student led and organised and was months in the making. Each of the four plays was directed by two student directors who had complete responsibility for producing their House play. I have had the privilege of attending rehearsals since the beginning of the year and have been amazed by the commitment of the students who have all volunteered to participate, and by the leadership abilities of the students who have been directing the plays.
This is only one week in the life of Moriah High School and a snapshot of what our students achieve.
We are truly growing and developing the future leaders of the Sydney Jewish community and our broader Australian society here in our High School. I think, as a community, we should be very proud of our Moriah High School students. There are very few schools that promote this level of student leadership and produce students who make such a profound difference in the lives of others.
I think it is very important that we reflect on the importance of volunteering as this week is Australian National Volunteer Week (15-21 May). As a community, we need to continue to encourage and support our young ones to prioritise and value volunteerism from an early age, as it is the youth of today who will make an impact on the world of the future. As a school, we try to actively encourage all students to generously donate their time to volunteering by requiring all students to complete 40 hours of Community Service each year. My challenge for you all over the next week is to volunteer to do something in collaboration with your teenager to support someone less fortunate than yourselves. As parents, we are our children’s most influential role models. If our children see us volunteering, they are more likely to volunteer themselves – “the apple never falls far from the tree.” If you can find something to volunteer to do together then this will make this a more meaningful experience for you and your teenager and it can be a powerful bonding experience.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Hemphill is the Head of High School at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.