Good evening Moderator of the Uniting Church WA, Reverend Steve Francis, Chair of College Council Mr Jim Walker, Headmaster Mr Ross Barron, College Chaplain Reverend Nalin Perera, Members of College Council, parents, staff, special guests and my fellow valedictorians in the Class of 2019.
I want to start by acknowledging our 2020 Prefect waiters tonight. It’s a little strange to see you in the position we were only a year ago and to realise how far we’ve come and how far you’ll all go, so I wish Connor and the rest of you the best of luck next year and know you’ll do an absolutely brilliant job.
I’d also like to acknowledge all the parents and special guests here. While I am very sure that the boys are always constantly tell you how grateful they are for everything you do, I want to just make sure you know how special you are to all of us and how we’d literally not be able to function properly without you. While tonight is a celebration for us, it also a testament to the beautiful young men you have raised through your love and support, so on behalf of the boys I thank you all.
I started writing this speech in Week 2 of Term 3. We had just gotten our leaver jumpers and morale was high. Of course, Sammy Williams’ was already dirty three days into having them but he had this big ripper smile on his face. And honestly I had that smile too. Getting the leavers jumpers was not just a reminder to me of how close the end was, but how far we’d come to get here.
Yet in-between the homework and the assignments and the assessments and the exams and everything else in the life of a Year 12 student, I sometimes forgot to realise how lucky I was on this journey. From the first day I stepped onto this campus I can honestly say I felt welcome. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the moment a friendly young boy introduced himself to me and showed me around this beautiful campus. As a shy kid, having someone go out of their way to help me was incredible, and while he became a lot more intimidating once I saw his killer bado smash, wicked calculus ability and hectic dancing skills, I know that Adi will be someone I will always hope to call my close friend because of what he did that first day.
And to me this first act was only the start of a growing trend. As I spent more time at Wesley I learnt of how kind and caring this community is as it helped me foster and grow into the person I am today. From my Year 5 billy cart team, Need for Epic Speed, to my Katitjin Mob, Marloo, to the self-proclaimed Thirdswood Cup basketball squad, I have always felt like these experiences have been particularly special because of the people I have been able to share them with and how we’ve all helped each other grow.
We are a diverse bunch. And that is an absolutely wonderful thing. Sure, as a group, we have had to shed a few bad habits here and there, but something I’ve always felt is that we have each other’s backs where and whenever it may be. And in this diversity and support there has always been strength. I may be lucky enough to hold the title ‘College Captain,’ but honestly the leadership in our group is so much more than just myself.
Our Prefects have all done a fantastic job this year and it has been my absolute privilege to work closely alongside these boys. However, there are also boys who’ve stood up in their own areas without a fancy blazers or a badge. Cammy Nyugen’s commitment to his badminton team, showing up to every training – even when sick – that is incredible leadership. Will Strahan, who I’ve come to call the Captain of Culture, screaming his lungs out from both the supporters and competitors sides at the Inter-School Swimming Carnival, that was incredible leadership. Will Barrett, in all his performances in all the bands he plays in and his unswerving support for the music program, that was incredible leadership. The Moorditij Mob boys, the winning Wesley Gold Mock Trials team, Nathan Moe’s encouragement and supportive culture, the boys in Avenue Q – these are all just some of the many instances of passionate leadership in our diverse year group. And all together each of you has worked to push us all forward and been able to provide the opportunity for everyone to break through some pretty high ceilings this year, even if you’re as short as I am.
Now, something I think most of you know is that I’m adopted, and this has taught me one of the most important lessons in my life. If any of you were to Google ‘family,’ one of the definitions that come up is ‘a group of people related by blood or marriage.’ But as an adopted child I know this definition is quite limiting. I am not connected by blood or marriage to my parents and siblings, yet they are and always will be my family. So, I know that being part of a family is so much more than just blood. To me, it’s more about the experiences a group shares, the highs and the lows they go through together and the love they all have for one another. And this is why I think it’s also wrong to say that I only have one family. Because all the boys here today – you are people I consider family. Just like my Mum and Dad making me the luckiest child in the world by adopting me into their lives, your kindness, compassion and culture has made me the luckiest student the world as I’ve had the privilege have you all being a part of my life.
And I hope you all feel the same way too. Someone who I greatly admire as both a leader and a person in general taught me a very important lesson about public speaking this year. He said, ‘they won’t remember what you say, but rather, they’ll remember how you make them feel.’ So I know it’s likely you won’t remember anything that I say and I don’t blame you, I’ll probably forget myself, but I hope, if anything, my speech makes you all realise how proud you should be of yourselves and of those around you. You’ve all stood tall, you’ve all stood true and you’ve all stood together over your time here. So continue to dare and to do as you go forth into the future and continue to make each other proud. And I hope you realise that, wherever you may go, however much you may succeed, you and the boys around you tonight are like one of the trees in the College. Yes, we may branch of in all different directions and flower in our own separate ways, but our roots will always remain here. With one another. With your family. And with your boys. Because we are the one and the only Wesley College, South Perth, Class of 2019.
Benjamin Roshkov | College Captain 2019
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