A farewell speech of relevance to all school leavers

Henry Kendall High's Class of 2017

Henry Kendall High School Principal, Mr Andrew Backhouse, has reflected on the end of Term 3 and the class of 2017’s graduation, in the school’s latest newsletter.
“As Term 3 draws to a close, we have an opportunity to celebrate some wonderful achievements of our students, school and learning community.
“These include our Performing Arts Nights, Year 12 Graduation, our Celebration Assembly with our partner schools, CC Student Voice Alliance, our achievements at Central Coast Showcase, excellent achievements in the Year 11 preliminary examinations, the showcase of our HSC Major Projects, excellence in CHS Athletics, the induction of our new school leaders and SRC for 2018, Year 7 $20 Boss, Ski Trip 2017, R-U-OK Day, Senior School Subject Selections, National Science Week activities, VISTAS exhibition and numerous excursions that enhance our curriculum,” Mr Backhouse wrote.
“The achievements and exciting opportunities provided by our school keep coming, and are too many to list comprehensively.
“On top of this, we need to acknowledge the great number of students who achieve personal bests each day, who consistently put in effort to their learning, academic and social, who simply have a go, and those who contribute to the life of our school through who they are as people.
“There is just so much to recognise and celebrate about Henry Kendall High School, and Term 3 certainly highlighted this.
On Thursday, September 21, we celebrated the Year 12 Graduation.
“This most important event on our school calendar marks one of the last formal occasions that our Year 12 students will be together as a year group; as such it is seen as a rite of passage.
“I take this opportunity to congratulate Year 12 on not only this significant achievement, but on the successful completion of 13 years of schooling.
“As we farewelled our graduating class of 2017, I’d like to share some extracts from my speech at the Graduation Ceremony;
“I would like to begin with a story.
“About 155 years ago, a man sat down and wrote these words: ‘I was born in this colony: and am now in the nineteenth year of my age.
‘My education has been neglected, hence you will very likely find that some of these effusions are immature.
‘At present, most of my time is occupied at an attorney’s office, but I do not earn enough there to cover expenses; considering that I have to support my mother and three sisters.
‘I want to rise, and if my poems are anywhere near the mark, you can assist me by noticing them.’
“Henry Kendall wrote those words, and when I read them, I think of a young man, all of 19, thinking he’s not very smart, working in a job that he didn’t like very much and trying to support his mother and three sisters.
“Then I thought how, after 155 years, could a school be named after him?
His name is everywhere around us, on this hall, in our office, and I’m guessing on a lot of your Facebook pages, it defines us and unites us.
“Then it came to me from his words; ‘I want to rise, and if my poems are anywhere near the mark, you can assist me by noticing them’.
“His poems were his passion, but he didn’t just close them away within a journal, he sent them to newspapers in Australia and in England and pleaded for them to be published, because he wanted to rise, to be known for his writing.
“Year 12, as you sit here today, I want you to promise me that you will never lose sight of those things you are passionate about, and then I want you to take that even further, let the world know about it.
“Have the tenacity and the conviction to persist and in our case here, persevere.
“No one ever achieves anything alone.
“Look around you today, on either side of you are your friends and your teachers, and behind you today, and always, your parents and family.
“Their words of encouragement, support and guidance echo within these walls and they have sustained you at home and at school.
“But at the end of the day you, and only you, decided to not give up, to rise, to persevere and to walk in those gates when you were probably exhausted mentally and emotionally.
“You put that heavy backpack on, carried those heavy books, went to all those classes, handed in those assessment tasks and you kept doing that for years.
“To me that is amazing in itself.
“Along that journey we got to know you.
“Your teachers and I have heard your aspirations, admired your dedication, some of us were even lucky enough to hear your dreams.
“We saw your tears and then watched you push through the negativity and keep going.
“In my role I got to know the stories of achievement, but also of hardship, and as I look across at you all here today, I’m glad you got through it all.
“The future is now waiting for you, the HSC exams are up ahead and each one of your parents, teachers and friends believes in you, these last few years are proof of that.
“I cannot tell you how to live or what the future holds but I will ask you to do one thing: if at any time you feel you have lost sight of your dream or your life has become so busy that you have stopped doing that one thing you loved, remember that young 19-year-old boy who wrote poems and stories and had a high school named after him simply because he wanted to rise, to be recognised, not for his job or the amount of money he earned but by the one thing he loved which has since defined him and us,” Mr Backhouse continued.
“Make what you do matter, make it count for something good and never lose sight of it.
“Leave your mark, because a 150 years from now, who knows,” Mr Backhouse concluded.

Newsletter, Sep 22
Andrew Backhouse, Henry Kendall High School