Good morning Gents, Executive, Staff, Parents and Friends,
I am humbled to have this opportunity to speak to you for one last time today, with gratitude for what the College has taught me and, indeed, for the opportunities we have each been given. Most importantly, I want to emphasise that any success is not simply the result of individual effort.
It would be naïve of me to start talking about my HSC success with anything except thanking those who have helped me and all the graduates on our academic journey in high school. Often, the Year 12 teachers get a special mention and we are truly grateful for the countless hours you have invested in us. However, I am sure I speak for my classmates when I say that we reserve a special debt of gratitude for our teachers in Years 7 -10. You have held us together and walked beside us as we figured out who we are: Mr Bates and Mrs Copas welcomed us into the school in Year 7 as pastoral care leaders, Mr Bourke and Mr Fields encouraged our growth into men, and Mrs Russell and Mr Jackson guided us through senior High school. The success of the class of 2022 was a by-product of a communal understanding that we need to be the best version of ourselves for those around us. We learnt this from you.
Each student sitting here now has the same support, even if you don’t immediately recognise it. Your pastoral coordinators, classroom teachers and support staff are your own guides for success and each lesson, each grade, every word of feedback is where success comes from. So, it’s never too early to start listening and even welcoming critical guidance. It is certainly what helped me grow.
My success came through particular subjects but I want to note that success comes in many forms. Our VET and TAS departments, along with the arts, are second to none, and many of my peers have benefitted from their expert teaching. For me, in particular, my senior school teachers: Mrs Woolnough, Mr Tyler, Mrs Lothian, Mr Richardson and Mr Booyar-Rybak, enhanced my senior schooling during which I learnt as much from their approach to teaching and commitment to education, as I did through the subjects. I truly believe that teachers are the foundation of our society, as teaching critical thinking combined with a shared wisdom challenges young people to seek new perspectives on how to see the world, tackle problems and approach your own circumstances to make the best decisions for yourself and those around you.
I’d also like to thank Mrs Hughes, Mrs Knowles, Mr Pullella, Ms Kierse, Ms Shumack, Dr Kinnane, the Sport coaches and all other staff who support us in initiatives outside of the classroom. Learning how to serve with activities that are not for the benefit of yourself, but for the benefit of others is crucial in growing to become a man of honour. Take every opportunity to get involved: the extracurricular activities and learning outside of the classroom also gives you a greater perspective of the world. Particularly, I enjoyed the Da Vinci Decathlons, team sports, debating, and certainly chess club, not only for the competition but also for the collaboration.
I found that through my studies it is all well and good to achieve academic success, but if you cannot use your gift of knowledge and critical thinking to support others in a world where selflessness is needed more than ever, then I think that there is some wasted potential there.
Finally, we would like to thank the people who have taught us for the last 18 years, our parents. It is easy to take for granted what our parents have provided for us, because of our opportunity to learn at such an amazing school, but their sacrifices don’t go unnoticed. From sending us to school, to making us food, transporting us, giving us advice, holding our hands and letting go when it was time; we wouldn’t be the men we are today without your ongoing support and unconditional love. You are our greatest role models and we thank God for you, even if we don’t say it daily.
This is where I would like to also personally thank my parents. Firstly, to my Dad, an old boy of Edmund Rice, who each and every day puts his children first, making sure we have the opportunity to live life to its fullest, you were a huge inspiration for me in beginning to understand what it means to be a man of honour, putting others before yourself, and for that I am truly grateful to have you as a male role model who lives with integrity, pushing me to be my best.
And to my mum, who most of you know as Mrs Hurley. She’s currently away, but I am sure she will see a recording of this. We would actually be here for the rest of the day if I listed off each thing that she did for me during my high school journey, let alone life in general. I see her come home from school, and continue to work and work and work, yet still managing to find time for her children and so many other people. The biggest take away from mum that I have learnt, is that you should always seek help and guidance, but don’t be selfish, don’t only focus on you, because you don’t realise how much other people sacrifice for you to have the privilege of a life of opportunity. She has taught me that a man of honour is compassionate, always, and to have faith that there is good in the world, although you must be the person to go out and be the good that the world needs. This is a lesson I am still learning, but thank you nonetheless Mum and Dad.
I have an older brother who enjoyed his own success in high school, graduating as Dux of the College in 2019, and many people have asked me whether I thought I could do better than him. And in all honesty, neither Jonah nor I really cared who statistically did better at school, and our parents always reminded us that we each have our own strengths, and these may not all be reflected through your school grades. So, I just tried MY best and that was good enough.
Boys, I think there is a very crucial message that you can take away from this. Comparing yourself to how other people perform is unhealthy and it is unrealistic for everyone to do their best if they just want to beat each other. And to my amazing little brother Malachy who is just starting Year 7, and for all of you in the Year 7 cohort – the class of 2028, my message is: be you, you have great potential and wherever your strengths and talents take you, your families will be proud of you.
I’d also like to highlight that the HSC is really just a game, and you have to learn how to play the game. Just like soccer or basketball, the game is won by working as a team. Lean on your classmates and let them lean on you; learn from them as much as you can, but the key with this is that you must reciprocate. And I am being serious, actually treat the HSC like you are a team working together, and as you all know, your team is only as good as the worst performing player. Pick others up when they need your help. This will do two things, it will not only improve the collective marks of the cohort, but improve your communication skills, something that is key for your future. I would like to personally thank my peers including Nathan Shaw, Jordan Naumovski, Will Douglas, Zac Jancetic, Rhyda Demaagd, Theo Seliman, Tom Carolan, Ashton Mackay, Faisal Sultan and all other boys who were in my classes for the help they have given me in my HSC year and I congratulate them each on their individual successes as well, all achieving their own fantastic result. The reality is, not a single one of us would’ve done as well as we could’ve if it wasn’t for our mates around us, pushing us up. As we have been told many times by Mr Jackson and Mr Gough, “a rising tide lifts all boats”. It was an honour to be a part of this cohort who had each other’s backs.
Boys, your family has worked so hard to send you to an amazing school to get an education. Be thankful for every opportunity to learn, thankful for every exam, every essay, every failure – because realistically Edmund Rice gives you these opportunities to build your character as a person, and to become a man of honour who can have a positive impact in the world – that is a liberating education. It is for understanding this that I joined the SRC, got involved in initiatives and contributed to the community work of the school. Boys, Edmund Rice gives you so much, show your parents and teachers you are thankful, not just through your words, but through your actions. To Louis, Elias and all the boys in Year 12, good luck this year, make the most of it and continue the mission of Blessed Edmund Rice himself.
Within the walls of Edmund Rice College, I came to know and understand the heart of what this school is about. Our motto is Deus Fortitudo Mea – God is my Strength. This school has strengthened me in more ways that I can count and I hope that you can see the important role of faith in making the most of opportunities for yourself. I am grateful for what I have received from Edmund Rice College. I encourage each of you to listen, really listen, to the lessons you are given. Putting your best effort in each and every day, small steps, not giant ones, were the foundation of any success I have enjoyed.
Admittedly, none of us will always make the best choices, but our ongoing persistence to acknowledge that we can always be better men for others and work towards becoming all that God intends us to be is truly the best take away we will get from this school, and that is the heart of personal success. Thank you for helping me to learn this valuable lesson.
Live Jesus in our Hearts. Forever
Blessed Edmund Rice. Pray for us.
Elijah Hurley – 2022 College Dux