Navigating Through Year 12

Last week the Senior School had the opportunity to hear Sandi Walton-Ellery, a past parent of a St Hilda’s graduate, speak about Service Leadership.

Sandi’s specialist skills are in crisis management in conflict and war zones, where she assesses requirements on the ground and draws up an action plan for relief agencies. She has dedicated her services to the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh and the conflict in Yemen where millions of people are in desperate need of food, shelter, water and assistance.

She revealed to our girls that her greatest fear throughout her journeys, was that she would fail. Through an inspiring narrative of life experiences, Sandi shared some valuable suggestions on how to thrive in life. I have been inundated with requests for her speech from Year 12 parents, so this week I share with you Sandi’s powerful message:

Suggestions for getting through Year 12 in the best shape possible.
(Based on years of being scared, failing, getting back up and putting my best foot forward, with a lot of help from my friends and family.)

Be Grateful

If you need some inspiration to feel more thankful, think about the Rohingya girls in Bangladesh refugee camps; girls the same age as you, who are harassed and abused daily. Don’t feel guilty, feel grateful that the global lottery of life put you here. Show your gratitude by being appreciative for the incredible life that you have. It may seem like a small thing to change the way your heart sees things, but it is huge, and it will change the way you experience life and the person you are.

Be a Leader

Remember that being a leader is not the same as being a boss. Lead with compassion and strength. The very most important place to be a leader is inside your own head. Be the leader of you! Your leadership is needed at school, with your friends, in your sports teams and in the community, but start with being the leader of your own life.

Be Kind!

Kindness and compassion are not gushy or fluffy or weak, they take strength and determination. When firefighters go into a bush fire zone, it’s not because of love, it is because they are determined, brave, and compassionate. Realise that you can’t expect to be kind in life’s big moments without practising kindness in the little things, every day.

Be Soft and Flexible

Develop a permeable membrane, not a hard shell. Be prepared to be wrong, because sometimes you will be. There is no reward for pushing through if you are going in the wrong direction, so be soft and open enough to absorb new ideas and to change your mind as well as your direction. Don’t just look straight ahead on the obvious path, look to the side paths, because you never know what magic could be hiding there.

Be Scared

If you feel scared, that is OK, even normal, and it is not the end of the World. Being scared can even be a positive because that is the beginning of working out what you are going to do with that fear. Are you going to bottle it up or are you going to use it? Being scared is what allows you to be brave and being brave isn’t a feeling, it is an action, especially when you don’t feel brave. Bravery might be stepping onto a plane, shutting your eyes and going to sleep, or it is taking a deep breath, or walking into the exam.

Talk to People you Trust, and Trust those People!

Don’t keep your fears inside you. Talk to your friends, your parents, and your teachers. It really is true that a problem shared is a problem halved. Others might have a fantastic suggestion, or they might not, but so often, by getting those worries out of your own head, they lose their strength and no longer have such a grip on you.

Don’t Only do STEM

Science, technology, engineering and maths – these are all fantastic subject! They will be key to careers of the future and, if they are your passion, go for it. But if your passion happens to be something else, follow that, because the World needs you too.

Don’t Lose Faith

Don’t ever lose faith that the World is an amazing place full of incredible people and everything you do is always worth the effort. Never forget how special, how lucky, how amazing it is to be you, right here, right now. Trust the people who love and care for you (listen to their advice) and when you are scared, stop, pause and make a move … it might be the right one and it will definitely be better than panicking and doing nothing at all. And lastly, don’t lose faith in yourself!

– Sandi Walton-Ellery