Cardijn Students are the Hope for our Future

Over the weekend I read an opinion piece by Matt Abraham in the Sunday Mail titled “Catholics of my era are the Vietnam vets of our faith”. It is an interesting piece of journalism and certainly topical for those who lived through the era of schooling in the 60s and early 70s. In this opinion piece, Matt describes his memories of school to be a time to better forget, a time when the relationship between teacher and student was one of power over and the use of physical abuse if the student did not respond with appropriate behaviour. The Royal Commission into Child Abuse in our institutions reported a very dark moment in our history as a nation, which has victims still managing the traumatic experiences of many decades ago. Abraham’s link to Vietnam vets is aligned with victims of abuse being walking wounded.

Child protection is now the number one priority in any school. We have robust processes and procedures in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students. These systems have been in place in one way or another for as long as I have been teaching but have become more robust in the last 10-15 years. It is tragic that a memory of school is based on traumatic or negative experiences. School is about young people being able to thrive, develop in a safe environment and be able to experience life-giving moments.

Over the last month we have celebrated the anniversary of the classes of 1991, 2001 and 2011. These reunions are so critical in fostering opportunities for Old Scholars to reconnect with their peers and to share their stories. Stories are such an important part of our lives; they capture our imagination and allow us to recognise and celebrate our lives. It provides meaning and deep connection and relationship. Sometimes we just do not know the impact we have as educators on the young people we work with. I was delighted to mix with so many former students and hear their stories, many are parents themselves and they speak beautifully about the hopes and aspirations they have for their children, many speak of the impact Cardijn had in their schooling years as to who they are today, they speak highly of the care they received but more importantly the inspiration they got from pursuing their dreams and not giving up.

One former student saw me recently and said that I supported her to follow a trade pathway in electrical in the 90s, mostly unheard of for women at that time. This led to her being very successful in her years and defined who she is today. Others remember that wisdom of learning to feel uncomfortable to learn to be comfortable. In 1991, we remember it to be the last year before the introduction of what we now know as the SACE. The Class of 91 was the last year to receive a senior school certificate. They were also in the last year before our houses were officially named as we know them today. At that time they were known as colours and our school captains were Lisa D’Amato and Luke Harris. Luke is, of course, well-known more recently as a former staff member at both our Marcellin and Cardijn campuses. Social justice was a very big item and the phrase “We can change the world” became our lived experience. In 2001, we remember a year like no other – terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York which launched into a war on terror that lasted for 20 years. It was also a year that marked a new Cardijn, with the completion of the new entrance and roundabout and commencement of new infrastructure such as the Gym. A new uniform with a blazer and tie and new curriculum and focus on academic excellence. Danae MacDonald (nee Caesarowicz) and Hengtee Lim were the school captains, and they remember fondly the house system which brought so much life to the school. 2011 brought many memories for students but also significant firsts. Adam Freeling was the first student in the history of Cardijn to receive an ATAR result of 99.95, which is the highest score possible and is a perfect score in all subjects and merits in four subjects. Madeleine Juhrmann was the first of many students to receive the Governor’s Commendation for the SACE, the highest award offered by the SACE Board. Deanna Novikov-Smith and Joel Hunt were the school captains, and it was great to see them at the recent reunion.

All these moments are part of the rich and amazing tapestry of Cardijn College, a place that nurtures young people, a place where young people can thrive, achieve the very best results and follow pathways that are fulfilling and life-giving. A place where we form leaders, who will have influence and impact in society and create a better world. These are the memories and stories that students of Cardijn remember of their school years. We are so blessed that we live in a different time to the 60s and 70s. This blog post is therefore titled “Cardijn students are the hope for our future”.

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, an R-12 co-educational Catholic school in the Marist tradition, deeply inspired by the method of College patron Joseph Cardijn with a foundation built on the three pillars of his teachings; to See, Judge and Act. Educating and inspiring students in the beautiful Southern Vales region of Adelaide since 1984, Cardijn has grown to encompass three schools, each with distinct offerings. Cardijn College Galilee at Aldinga offers Reception to Year 7, expanding to include Year 8 in 2022 and Year 9 in 2023. Cardijn College at Noarlunga Downs offers Years 7-12 and is renowned for academic excellence and a vibrant extra-curricular program. Cardijn College Marcellin at Christie Downs provides a wide variety of vocational education and training opportunities for students in Years 10 – 12 and beyond, with relationships that extend well into their careers. With a current enrolment of 1750 students and 240 staff, Cardijn College is an institution which strives to be a beacon of faith in the community, with students who have enormous influence and impact on both a local and global level. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

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