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“Nowhere to go, but Everywhere”

Our outgoing 2015 School Captains delivered heartfelt and poignant messages at our Years 9–12 Speech Night

Nicola Sitch, School Captain 2015 Speech Night Address

We often speak about the intimacy of St Catherine’s. But, I am hooked on its strength. And, as I stand in the School Hall tonight, addressing the School for what will be my final time – I feel its strength more than ever. It is this unpronounced, resounding feminine force. A quiet understanding that we are all here, on the same team – as happy for each other as we are for ourselves.

Walking out the gates yesterday with 75 of my closest friends, I knew, somehow, that it would always be this way. It is the strength of tradition. The hand marks on the walls. The way Sherren House creaks under the weight of 7,000 girls past and present. The knowledge that, for almost 120 years, St Catherine’s students have sat together and wondered about the future. And so, as leavers in 2015, we step into a world full with their legacy, abounding with their curiosity and made better by their spirit. We are embraced by generations of that same St Catherine’s fortitude.

It is also the strength of our teachers and leadership team. Their unspeakable commitment. Their diligence, their patience, their care. The sense of profound mutual respect that they offer us – every day.

It is the strength of this group, right here, now. Both as individuals and as a collective. Tonight, I feel a little bit maternal. Which, I will admit, is not a common experience for me. But as each of these girls have graced the stage and collected their awards; or have sat in their seats and cheered on their friends, I have wanted to pinch their cheeks and take a photo. Because we are celebrating such a special moment. A group of people on the precipice of it all, strong with what they have learnt, and felt, and known, here at St Catherine’s.

And I guess, for that, we have to thank the strength of our parents. Their bravery as we disappear on trips for weeks at a time to foreign countries. Sometimes, offering no contact except perhaps, an unexplained photo of us eating a frog, or driving up hills in the back of trucks. Or in my case, what looked like a wedding picture with a strange Fijian man. And the patience they demonstrate as their political views and lifestyle choices are scrutinized and condemned by a fifteen year old who has just learnt to think critically; testing out the esoteric knowledge she picked up in her Years 9 and 10 Electives. I know that, in my Year 10, mum endured hours of Socratic questioning as I endeavoured to break down her defences and expose how little she really knew. But most of all, parents, thank you for your foresight. For looking at St Catherine’s, and knowing what it would become to each of us, one day.

2015 has been spent occupying our new building. Assigning memories to the classrooms, wearing in the carpets and desks, battling with the Library for control over the central heating, making it ‘ours’. Now, our stories are as much a part of its build as the glass and brick. In 10, 20, 30 years’ time girls will walk through the halls and feel these memories, as we do when we step into the boarding house or the winter garden. Some day soon, we will come back and look at that desk, or through that window and feel the presence of our friends at fifteen, sixteen, seventeen and eighteen. We will remember that life-changing conversation, or teacher and how empowered and loved we felt here.

I am so honoured that the first story the building knew, was the narrative of 2015. A year of indescribable success. A time when St Catherine’s was more than a close-knit community, we were truly a team. The awards presented tonight are a testament to the guts and tenacity of our girls. Their capacity to extinguish fear with hard work and modesty. Their burning ambition to do more, learn more, be more. St Catherine’s is not just close or small – we are an amalgam of opinion, ferocity and passion. But most of all, we are strong. We are strong in our self-perception and in our awareness of others, strong in our capacity to love and be loved.

I have come to realise that life has a funny way of moving forward. It does not ask whether you are ready or willing to leave, it just compels you on. And today, life is carrying me kicking and screaming out that door. But when you are a fully grown eighteen year old who accidentally calls her teachers ‘mum’ on more than a weekly basis, it is probably time to keep moving. So parents, teachers and friends we are leaving today, not because we particularly want to. But, because, to paraphrase Jack Kerouac, American Novelist, St Catherine’s has left us with “nowhere to go, but everywhere.”

Jaqueline Cantarella, School Vice-Captain 2015 Speech Night Address

As I stand here tonight, it is very strange to think of the image of Nikki and I nervous and jittery as we prepared for our first speech at last years’ Awards Night, almost a year ago. It is still a vivid and recent memory. I can recall joking in my speech that Mrs Carroll was off to a better start as Principal than Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, having not threatened to shirt front another school principal. It gives me great pleasure to continue this analogy tonight, to say that Mrs Carroll has also managed to lead the School so brilliantly that she has avoided a leadership spill at the hands of one Nicola Sitch.

Since that first nervous speech, I have learnt so much as my time at St Catherine’s draws to a close. For one, I have experienced firsthand the true evil that is procrastination. But this is not all bad. In one such attack of procrastination, I became suddenly inspired to fill my room with quotes to motivate me, at the time not realising this as a vain attempt at avoiding my homework.

One of these quotes has proven to be quite relevant as the Class of 2015 are confronted with the fact that life outside St Catherine’s is on our proverbial doorstep and knocking ferociously to be let in. Scrawled on a pink sticky note on my wall are the words of American writer Joshua Glenn Clark: “We waste so many days waiting for the weekend, and so many nights wanting morning. Our lust for future comfort is the biggest theft of life.”

This quote reflects perhaps the most significant thing I have come to realise over the year that has transpired. Often we get caught up in wishing away the present so much so that we forget to truly embrace it. This being said, it is completely natural to look to the future for the strength or motivation to persevere in the present. But in today’s fast paced society in which instant gratification characterises almost everything we do, we often forget to step back, to slow down, to consider the value of the present. And so, we let the beautiful, everyday things pass us by. We eventually realise that all those things we were looking forward to are now just distant memories.

It is safe to say that each Year 12 has spent the greater part of the year excitedly anticipating the very moment that stands before us – the conclusion of our schooling and a leap into the unknown. We have often used this as solace from the challenges of SACs and exams. But the unstoppable force of time has crept up on us and left us asking ourselves where on earth the time went. The sheer speed with which the everyday things we have taken for granted this year have become a memory, is almost unfathomable.

It is with this in mind that I implore every girl here to embrace the everyday moments at St Catherine’s that you will soon come to miss. Cherish your mornings with your form group, embrace the fact that you have got to get up early for Swimming or stay after School for Debating. Because soon you will find yourself graduating, and your chances of joining the Melbourne University Badminton team or wind quintet plummet quicker than my level of fitness in Year 12.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” So, girls, utilise the array of opportunities you are presented with at this great School. Live your schooling life in the present, rather than hanging out for the summer holidays, or for the next semester, or for when you can finally call yourself an Old Girl. By doing so, you can reach your final days as a student, and confidently say to yourself that you have done enough, that you have harnessed your potential, and that you have made the most of your time here. Because when you arrive at the conclusion of your schooling life, you do not want to leave St Catherine’s regretting how little you did.

Lastly girls, stop to consider the things you would usually take for granted – a prime example being the kindness and generosity of your teachers and the wealth of knowledge that they impart every day.

In preparation for this speech, Nikki and I contacted teachers to give us some insight into the many achievements at St Catherine’s this year. However it was not only the sheer amount of accomplishments that astounded us, but the delight in our achievements these dedicated teachers displayed.

The devotion and pride in their students, and passion for education shone through their emails. This is epitomised by Ms Spanos’ response to my queries about the Year 10 cohort, to which she replied with practically a thesis on why the Year 10s are so incredible.

It was 737 words of pure passion, awe and excitement at her students’ accomplishments this year. I was instantly aware of the highlights of the year, as they were not only bolded and in all capitals, but had at least seven exclamation marks following them.

On top of this, the teachers’ limitless humour, friendliness and passion for what they do was clearly evident within Mr Brown’s reply to my request for some interesting stats about the Drama department. His reply was as follows: Drama at St Catherine’s has seen a steady 5.7% increase in awesomeness across the past five years, culminating in an 8.4% jump in 2015. Audiences came away from St Catherine’s performances roughly 1/3 more satisfied when compared with any other performance. Mr Brown concluded this by saying that, alas, 48% of statistics are made up.

These are just two snapshots into the incredibly talented and enthusiastic cohort of teachers we have the privilege of being taught by here at St Catherine’s.

Girls, we are extraordinarily lucky to have such generous, supportive and dedicated teachers – to all the staff, I cannot express my gratitude enough for always seeing the potential in each of us and fostering an environment in which we can maximise this potential.

Moreover, the School would not be the remarkable place it is, without the leadership of Mrs Carroll and Mr Cross. Mrs Carroll has worked tirelessly to be an accessible, receptive and progressive principal. Her advocacy for equal opportunity for women, passionate approach to leadership and determined nature are qualities we all aspire to possess as young women and leaders.

Moreover, Mr Cross has been an unwavering presence throughout our time in the Senior School, working tirelessly to maintain and further the supportive and unified community of St Catherine’s that we know and love. The huge amount of work he puts in behind the scenes, especially with facilitating many School events and helping us with organisation of charity events, is truly astounding.

Lastly girls, both Nikki and I have been overwhelmed by your boundless enthusiasm to embrace ‘absolutely’ this year without any reluctance or scepticism. We have had the absolute privilege of being exposed to the awe-inspiring calibre of girls, from Years 7 to 12, who distinguish a St Catherine’s girl from the rest. We leave knowing we have been a member of a School of capable, determined and optimistic young women.

The grit and conviction which characterises a St Catherine’s girls’ approach to every challenge, is where our theme of ‘absolutely’ has truly come to life. As evidenced by the huge amount of achievements this year, it is this resolve to be the very best version of ourselves that makes St Catherine’s girls so astounding. So congratulations girls, on another incredible year, and I sincerely thank you all for allowing me the greatest honour of serving as School Vice-Captain this year.

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