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David Quan: A Flourishing Culture of Service

During the recent Federal election campaign, there was one common theme among the many conflicting political arguments; that you win the lottery of life the moment you settle in Australia. Yet in my opinion, there is more than simply winning this lottery.

Ms Skujins (our Service Coordinator) and I were privileged to attend the 2nd state-wide Curriculum of Giving Student Volunteering Workshop last Thursday to learn how to implement safe and meaningful volunteering opportunities for our students. Presenters included internationally renowned researchers such as Associate Professor Dr Thomas Nielson and Dr Fiona Kerr, service coordinators from public, private and Catholic schools as well as a number of passionate student leaders.

There was immense value in hearing the different perspectives and practical methods of fostering a culture of giving. It encouraged me to reflect upon how we can improve on our programs at Saints. As a pioneering school for positive education and wellbeing, we seem to be at the forefront of this wonderful social initiative. Under the leadership of both Mr Scott and Ms Skujins, our Service Learning program has grown exponentially in the past five years. In recent times, it is encouraging to see Mr Browning’s support of Mr Borgas’ work in furthering our social enterprise program.

Our students have embraced different opportunities to volunteer and make a difference in the wider community. The projects undertaken have been so diverse and worthwhile, and here are just a few examples:

  • George Karassoulos (Year 12) leads a global team of high achievers that provide free tutoring for the most underprivileged students around the world. Most notably, he has helped a low-income Afghan student raise his SAT score from the 29th to the 84th percentile, which has consequently enabled him to become a competitive scholarship applicant for the US colleges.
  • Alexander Rowe and Teja Nairn (Year 11s) play music at the Aldersgate Residential Aged Care home. Alex discovered the benefits of pet therapy for dementia patients, which inspired him to potentially expand this therapeutic method throughout the nation.
  • Jimmy Psaltis (Year 11) founded the ‘Make Reading Rock’ social enterprise in the hope of improving literacy in disadvantaged children in Years 1 to 3. He has already begun collecting children’s book donations and his ideas should come to fruition in Term 3.

Young people never cease to amaze when provided with the opportunity to take full initiative. I realised this after witnessing first-hand the creative powers of the 23 Year 7s and 8s in my inaugural Empathy Awareness Program in 2017. Once exposed to the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, they were challenged to use innovative ideas to raise awareness for Huntington’s Disease, a cause that was very close to the heart of this community. The boys worked in small groups to brainstorm, prepare and deliver a well-structured 10-minute pitch (similar to the TV Shark Tank), and then were given the freedom to finally implement their chosen ideas.

I vividly remember Jeremy Beale (Year 10) sending me this incredibly lengthy email of his visionary ambition, Riley Brunsgard (Year 10) taking responsibility for all the logistics of the fundraising after his group secured the winning idea, and Chirath Lekamge (Year 10) controlling the entire technological aspects of the awareness campaign. The hard work and tremendous leadership of that group of 23 Middle Years students raised the bar for student-driven service-learning initiatives at Saints because it demonstrated the astonishing capabilities of teenagers when entrusted with the responsibility of being in charge. Credit must be given to Tom Spiby (Year 12) for continuing this worthwhile project for the charity ‘Sight for All’ this year, as well as Daniel Jesudason (Year 9), for his mentoring of the newly formed Year 8 Service Steering Squad.

It does seem that Service Learning is gaining unprecedented momentum across the nation, which I wholly believe is a worthwhile initiative both on a personal and social level. Our community is at its best when there is empathetic care and understanding for one another, and a willingness to work together for a common cause that is greater than any one individual. Engagement with the community, particularly as a core curriculum in our educational institutions, is exciting because it exposes our young minds to unfamiliar perspectives, promotes social inclusion and endorses strong values built on empathy and care for others. Incorporating service into the educational curriculum adds a whole new dimension to learning that transcends one’s understanding of our society and community, which can in turn encourage a life-long commitment to nurturing philanthropic ideas. Hence, I anticipate that this flourishing culture of service will promote a greater sense of belonging in our community and thereby help to foster much-needed meaning and purpose to our lives.

Congratulations to us all for being a part of this lucky country.

We have won the lottery of life, but the question I have to raise is: Have we all used this remarkable opportunity to enhance our own community?

Because all it takes is one small decision … to serve.

Pro Deo Et Patria

David Quan
School Vice Captain

The Inaugural Empathy Awareness Program in 2017, a fully student driven initiative facilitated by School Vice-Captain David Quan