Get to know our 2022 School Captains, Angela Yu and Madeline Powell.
As School Co-Captains, Angela Yu and Madeline (Maddie) Powell commence their leadership roles, they share their thoughts for the coming year as well as reflect on their experiences of 2020.
What do you hope to accomplish in your role as School Captain this year?
Angela: This year, I hope to lead the school with Maddie in a way that helps people find some stability and hope, despite the ongoing pandemic.
When our time in this role concludes, I want to be satisfied that I have alleviated, or shared the difficulties of this turning point of history, with other students through smiles, encouragement and memorable assemblies.
My other goal is to ensure everyone feels they have the ability and willingness to speak up, and contribute their ideas. As School Co-Captain I would like to motivate all St Catherine’s girls to unfold themselves from timidity or passivity and give voice to their thoughts.
Madeline: Coming out of such a difficult couple of years I hope as a School Co-Captain I can cultivate a sense of belonging amongst all students. I really want to strive to ensure each girl feels as though they genuinely belong, because each day I walk through the Heyington Gates I am overcome with a sense of connection and belonging, and I believe every girl deserves this.
How did you become interested in a student leadership role?
Angela: I have always admired the student leaders of our School, for not only their achievements but the way they were constantly smiling and working to make St Catherine’s as welcoming and friendly as possible.
I remember how willing Nicola Sitch (’15) and Jacquelin Cantarella (’15) were to take photos with me at my very first Christmas Fair back in Year 5, and consequently, how excited I was that they would take the time to do that. For me, student leadership roles mean a chance to give back to St Catherine’s and to its people in a significant way. I was interested in these roles because of the joy the Captains can inspire in our community, and the positive influence they have as role models for the younger girls.
Madeline: I think it was a bit of an accumulation of interests, role models and experiences that ignited my interest in leadership and directed me towards applying for a student leadership role.
Growing up at St Catherine’s for the past seven years has taught me how it feels to be led, and the impact that leaders can have on your life as I have been exposed to such genuine forms of leadership at this School. Every experience I have had with leaders at St Catherine’s, both teachers and past student leaders, has manifested as inspiration within me and encouraged me to not be afraid of leading, rather, to embrace it and be driven by it.
Building on this, St Catherine’s has always encouraged public speaking and debating which I am so grateful for, because in doing so I discovered my passion for these activities and have been able to develop and refine these skills, making me more comfortable and confident in displaying leadership.
I have also had the privilege of being surrounded by some incredible role models, such as my parents, which sparked an interest in leadership within me, as watching the way they go about their roles and their interactions with people has cemented my desire to adopt similar roles of responsibility.
What are the key responsibilities of being School Captain?
Angela: Definitely setting a good example for others and taking initiative to change the School, perhaps even in the tiniest ways, for the better.
In the few leadership moments I have already experienced speaking in assemblies and introducing the 2021 School Co-Captains on Speech Day, I am very aware that quite literally all eyes are on us. As a very coveted role, it is a School Captain’s responsibility to use it well and to demonstrate ways of being a good person. I think that it is crucial to continue the legacy of past Captains, and encourage everyone to act on the School Values, whether showing courage to pursue personal dreams, or in showing empathy to contribute to a kinder place.
Madeline: I think that at a smaller school like St Catherine’s, the key responsibility of the Co-Captains is to facilitate and strengthen the connections between the students. One of the most beautiful things about St Catherine’s is the vibrant and tight-knit community, so I see it to be Angela and my responsibility to uphold the legacies of Old Girls and continue to foster and encourage the harmony and inclusiveness that is found at the core of St Catherine’s.
Also, another core responsibility of a School Captain is to be a positive role model for the students. In leading true to myself and my core values, I want to model to all the younger girls that they can confidently be themselves without judgement at St Catherine’s. I want every girl who walks through the Heyington Gates to know they belong and are valued.
Do you think COVID-19, and the last two years of Learn@Home will influence your leadership role this year?
Angela: COVID-19 was a central focus of my application, and it will certainly influence the way in which I take on this role. As someone who has experienced many times the feelings of hopelessness and isolation over the past two years, I really think that 2022, for me, will be a year of kindness and reconnection with others. Since everyone’s been mostly talking to each other over the screen, I think it is more important than ever to be careful and understanding of each other’s feelings and work to reconstruct and even revamp the unity we have at School.
Madeline: Absolutely. The last two years has completely shifted everything, from my mindset, to the way we learn and the way we interact with others. Although I hope that next year we will find comfort in our “new normal”, that is not certain, but I am confident that Angela and I, along with the rest of the Student Executive, will be adaptable and prepared to lead collaboratively and fearlessly in any and all circumstances.
After the past two years of Learn@Home, I feel as though there has been a significant shift to prioritsing connection, kindness, empathy and gratitude, and I intend on leading with this in mind.
Although we all have busy lives with different demands and expectations, next year I will centre my leadership around encouraging a sense of mindfulness and gratitude for the here and now. Gratitude for the beautiful environment that we learn in, for the teachers that support us, for all the opportunities we are offered, and for our family and our friends. I believe in promoting this mindset, that prioritises a constant acknowledgement of the things we have to be grateful for, from this kindness and understanding will organically cultivate.
What is one word that best describes the kind of School Captain you would like to be?
My Mum introduced me to an African proverb that reads “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And in light of this, given next year I want us to go far, I would describe the kind of School Captain I would like to be as inclusive.
Describe the most enjoyable aspect of being part of St Catherine’s School?
Angela: I have to admit, I do get nervous when talking to new people, so I would say the most enjoyable part of being at St Catherine’s is the people here. It does not matter if you are new or do not see each other a lot around School, I know everyone is willing to talk to each other and help each other out, whether its Year 11s giving advice to the Year 9s, or the other way around. This also includes the teachers, who are all so approachable and ask you how you are going even after years of not teaching you. St Catherine’s really gives you a family to open up to, even for someone like me who started out as a very shy person.
Madeline: My favourite aspect of St Catherine’s is the community. I still remember my first day here – although some aspects are a bit hazy given it was seven years ago – and the way the teachers and girls did not hesitate to welcome me and make me feel so comfortable. Since then St Catherine’s has been more like a big family that always supports, comforts and challenges me.
During my time in the Senior School this family connection has been cemented. I have had the opportunity to walk through the Heyington Gates each morning, welcomed by School Captains, older students and teachers. It is small gestures and seemingly insignificant moments like these that make up the most enjoyable aspect of being part of St Catherine’s, because they foster the incredibly strong community here that I am so grateful to be a part of.
What is one quality a good leader needs to have?
Angela: I think an important quality is resilience. There will always be things that go wrong, or turn out in an unexpected way, resilience allows people to keep pushing forward to better things despite these obstacles. Good leaders need to be able to keep looking forward and creating progress even when it is difficult to do so – in fact, especially when it is difficult to do so.
Madeline: The ability to be authentic. This trait enables leaders to genuinely connect with people and consequently has countless positive outcomes. A person can most effectively lead when they understand and connect with those who they are leading.
Also, I believe displaying authenticity can encourage gratitude. A great leader will acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly, and by giving an authentic representation of what life is really like, with its ebbs and flows, they can encourage those who they lead to embrace and be grateful for life as it is, and display how with grit and determination we can work through adversity when times are tough, and celebrate accomplishments when things go well.
What is one thing you would like to take from the experience of being School Captain once you leave the Heyington Gates?
Angela: There are lots of things I think I will learn from being School Co-Captain, including improving my communication and organisational skills. But in the end, for me, the one thing I would like to take from this experience is a feeling that I have given my best in the role and in bringing the School together as much as I can. I want to leave with no regrets, and with more strength and initiative than I have now.
Madeline: I know that over the next year I will learn many lessons and continue to develop as a person and a leader. I am so grateful to be in such a position that will enable me to do this. So, once I leave the Heyington Gates, I hope I can leverage the myriad of lessons I will learn as School Captain to effectively enter life after School equipped with the experiences, knowledge and confidence to connect with people and pursue my chosen pathway.