The special guest of honour at the recent Roncalli College prizegiving was Travin Patterson, a young former pupil of Roncalli. Travin came to Roncalli when he was in Year 9, after he had been excluded from another Timaru school. Not the most willing of students, Travin’s passage through Years 9 and 10 was a little rocky, but staff and fellow students were resolute in their encouragement and support. However, towards the end of Year 11, Travin felt he had had enough and decided to leave school without having achieved NCEA Level 1. In Roncalli Principal Chris Comeau’s own words:
“I tried to convince him to stay but was unsuccessful. I did make him promise me to stay in touch and let me know how he was getting on. I didn't hear from him until this past November (almost 2 years later). He came in with a huge smile on his face to tell me that he had achieved Level 3 at Polytechnic and had been offered an apprenticeship. It was a magic moment for me, he had not forgotten his promise and had achieved despite some significant obstacles.”
Chris invited Travin back as special guest at the prizegiving and based his speech on Travin’s story, challenging New Zealand society’s prevailing notions of achievement and success. As teachers we will always be interested in what our students achieve, both at school and later in life, but the ultimate success will not be written in certificates or scholarships or superior professions, but in what sort of characters these young people form and become. Not what I achieve, but what sort of person I become.
The accompanying photograph shows Chris presenting Travin with a bamboo chime. The bamboo represents growth, and the chime is a reminder that he still has a way to go.
Again, Chris’s own words:
“It was a great moment for this young man, his parents, and our staff.”