Closing Day Address

Thursday, July 09, 2015 - By: Bud Patel

As Winston Churchill famously said, “This is not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning.” Graduates, you are entering perhaps the most enjoyable time in your life. No breakfast sign-ins, no uniforms, no curfews, no mortgages, no children, and all this while still accessing your parents’ bank accounts.

This morning is the culmination of years of schooling for the Graduating Class of 2015. From Junior Kindergarten nap time to Advanced Placement exams, they are the fortunate ones who have benefited from their parents' gift of a superb education. I know they sit with us today as proud Brentonians and leaders of tomorrow.

Welcome to our Closing Ceremonies for the 2014-15 school year.

It can never be said too many times, thank you, thank you, thank you to the faculty and staff of Brentwood College School. We are all united in our goal of creating a stable and positive platform for learning so our students can explore, take learning risks, and blossom into the leaders of tomorrow. This group of committed and trusted adults perform their tasks with passion and pride, and treat every student as if they are their own child. Please join me in thanking these remarkable people.

Unfortunately, some faculty are departing at the end of this school year and we would like to acknowledge them now.

Our Interns, Mr. John Ayre, Mr. Aaron Webster, and Ms. Rebecca White leave us with a year of unique experiences and incredible relationships. Ms. Anabel Wind helped us through a music transition and we wish her well. Ms. Julia Klepl who was covering for Mrs. Warner’s maternity leave will move to York House School in Vancouver and we thank her for her two years of service. Mrs. Andrea Felix has enrolled in a Masters programme at the University of Victoria and will be on leave for 2 years.  We know she will enjoy being on the other side of the desk for a while.  

 Mrs. Debbie Vogt has been our math tutor and a power of positive thinking for 22 years. She has the talent and empathy to take students who struggle with math through a methodical and productive approach. She will be missed.

For 30 years, Mr. Bruce Tate has been an exceptional teacher of physics and admiral of the pirate ship that is Rogers House. His unwavering loyalty to his house and school is impressive and his teaching is legendary. Two weeks ago, we invited parents to take part in “A Day in the Life of a Brentwood Student” during a Friday Arts afternoon. Two academic lectures were on offer – Mr. Collis and Mr. Tate.  While Mr. Collis has an exceptional gift and is most compelling, Mr. Tate’s storytelling lecture was so oversubscribed that we had to cap the number – such is the reverence for Mr. Tate.  Bruce, thank you for your leadership and passion for teaching. I have learned a great deal from you and wish you the very best in your well-deserved retirement.

Since 1971, Mr. John Garvey has made his presence felt on this campus. Whatever the task, Mr. Garvey was there. Sadly, this will be his final year at Brentwood. To honour him, Mr. John Allpress, Deputy Head, will make a special presentation, on behalf of the Board of Governors, of the prestigious Hugh Stephens Award to Mr. Garvey.

This year, in your programme, we have included information from all major school components and I encourage you to review these highlights. A quick glance will reveal what a remarkable year it has been. 

The power of Brentwood is not easily quantified. We have attempted to craft words, use images, and create videos to help define the Brentwood experience. None, however, are completely able to capture the subtle importance of, as Mr. Snow mentioned during last evening’s Rogers House dinner, the little things. The power of Brentwood floats, permeates, and oozes. Whether you’ve been here for 44 years or 1 year – Brentwood's magical spell quickly engulfs us all.  But don’t take my word for it. Let me share two perspectives – one from a 44 year veteran and the other from a 1 year wonder.

 Last Thursday, Mr. Garvey shared his final lessons with the school.  He had three of them.

 1.  Respect

Mr. Garvey reminded us of Garey Gan’s address to the school during his Grade 11 year. As a new student, he mentioned how impressed he was by the way people held the door open for those who followed. Rather than rushing through or cutting in front of someone, at Brentwood, we wait for someone else to safely pass through. As Mr. Garvey pointed out - that’s respect. Respect for everything and everyone. "We all can and must be respectful", he said.

An example of this came on May 24th. Over the course of the year, Mrs. Cheung Robinson, Mackenzie Houseparent, and a number of other staff, intensely trained for the Oak Bay Half-Marathon. Many of us would see them running up and down Mill Bay road at all times of day and in all types of weather conditions. Early that Sunday morning, when they could have slept in, the Mack girls secretly organized a bus to take them to the finish line so they could cheer on their houseparent. As Ms. Cheung Robinson came over the final crest, she saw a sea of green – it was her girls. Tears were shed, hugs were aplenty, and that mutual respect between teachers and students that is at the heart of the Brentwood experience, was once again revealed. 

2.  Fun and Optimism

The “Joy" part of our values is often overlooked. Mr. Garvey shared that having a positive attitude and being optimistic about life is a far better way to be. Despite the challenges of the day, week, month, or year – and yes, he acknowledged, we all have our down moments, we must look on the bright side of the beautiful lives we lead. Look around to see a stunning campus, amazing facilitates, a caring community, and a one-of-a-kind learning experience. Brentwood is a pretty good life, he said.

We must also have some fun. Have some laughs. Take part in a bit of banter. If you’ve been fortunate enough to attend of our Thursday assemblies, there is plenty of levity amongst the honoring and messaging. Toby’s speed rapping resonated. Open House videos had us rolling in the aisles. Even when Mr. McCarthy honoured Mr. Tate, we shared a number of laughs at his “no ordinary Bruce” comparisons.  Other memorable moments include Cara dumping two buckets of ice on me as part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Staff vs. Students events and yes, even #selfiewithpatel.

 In fact, later in this ceremony, I will be standing right there cringing at some of Mr. Garvey’s jokes. John, please be good to me!

 3.  Commitment … or as he puts it … get on with it!

His message is, when you say you are going do something, then do it.  When you sign up for something, then do it. When you commit to a team or activity, then give it your all. Be strong. Be mentally tough. Be gritty – yes, there’s our other value. He shared that since he was a school boy, he had an unblemished record of punctuality and attendance at school and work – over 60 years of perfection. He was committed and he asks us to do the same. Mr. Garvey is proud of Tyler Pickford quietly supporting the Grade 8s during his spares. And of Maria Fustic helping one of our Grade 9s with a fundraising project.  And of Jordan Sicherman putting in well over 90 hours of peer tutoring time. And of Mr. Langer’s fitness club affectionately known as Drew’s Angels. And of Ji Won Kim and the Academic Council’s organization of this year’s Careers Day. And of Kevin Dada owning that NE corner of the library. And of our Faculty’s willingness to have Sunday tutorial sessions.

 He left us with three words – respect, fun, and commitment.  Mr. Garvey, Brentwood will live up to your standards and I hope you remain proud of your school.

 Now onto the one year wonder.

 Last week, I received this letter from one of the Graduates, Victoria Roiz, Hope ‘15. I’ll share an abridged version of the note.

My Story

“I started to think back and I remembered how everything began. I was in my car with my mom, talking about life, when all of a sudden my mom asked me if I would like to, once again, attend a boarding school. When I was in Grade 8 I went to a boarding school in Michigan, but I never thought of leaving Mexico again for a year. At that moment my first thought was that my dad would just say no, so I decided to put that idea aside. 

Fortunately, the idea kept echoing inside my head and I had to do something about it. This was not the kind of situation where a kid will cry until she gets what she wants. I love to fight. I love to aspire, to grow, learn, belong, succeed and be fulfilled by what surrounds me. I knew that my first step was to find the right moment to tell my dad. I was looking at him and he at me, so I decided to put the cards on the table. The answer was not a yes, or a no, or even a maybe, but instead he told me to get informed.

I looked up over 40 boarding schools and not one could match what I was looking for. Some had amazing sports or academic programs, but the arts programs were barely planned; others had an impressive number of students, others had an immense campus, but I felt unsatisfied by all of them because they were always lacking something. They were not complete. I knew that if I was going to leave home for a year, it needed to be a place where I could develop and maximize my human skills. I thought that it was the time to drop the ball after hours and hours of looking up schools; I could not find the right place for me. But then there was this day when I was at my previous school and my mom called me and told me: “Vicky, I found the right one.”

The next thing I know, I’m at Brentwood College School. This was the place where I needed to be for my last year of high school, with this group of people, in this place, at this time, 2014-2015. I remember that first day like if it was yesterday, and I want to say that I am so pleased with my decision, because I am extremely happy with who I am at this time of my life. I remember when all the Grade 12s from Hope House went to your home for a barbecue and you asked us: What makes Brentwood different? 

Many answers were given, and all of them were true, but one was more relevant than the others: the Brentwood family. My 10 months living here have made this statement so true, because each one of us makes this place what it is. I am more than impressed by how Brentwood is entirely solid on its convictions and essence, on how everyone shows caring and respect for each other in the most human way. It makes me feel overwhelmed to know that a safe and healthy environment like this exists, where everything is at your reach, and it is just a matter of taking advantage of it. Brentwood has helped me in an unimaginable way. I feel strong and independent, and I couldn´t feel more proud of who I am. I am extremely thankful for my family's unconditional support and love, and to Brentwood for standing by my side in my never-ending journey.”

Victoria Roiz, Hope ‘15

Whether you’ve been here 44 years or 10 months, Brentwood quickly penetrates your heart and soul. The lessons are basic, simple, and oh so Brentwood. The power of Brentwood, you see, is not in the majestic campus, stunning facilities, and amazing programmes – it’s imbedded in the relationships between people. People who respect one another.  People that have fun with each other. People who commit to each other. All in the most human way.

Please join me in thanking Mr. Garvey and Victoria for their wise words.

I invite this year's SEC to join me in front of the stage to help pass the torch to next year's leaders.

Beginning in April, we invited students to apply for leadership roles. Once endorsed by their houseparents, the students and faculty were polled. Senior leaders, including Houseparents, reviewed the data and recommendations were made to my office. While not easy, after much debate and discussion, we have arrived at next year's Student Executive Committee that is made of the Head Prefect, Assistant Head Prefects, and ex-officio members from the BEAT, SAC, SPARC, GRAD President, and House Captains.  

 

BEAT - Ellie K from Jordan Sicherman

SPARC - Mitali P from Andrea Denny-Jiles

SAC - Sarah L from Ibrahim Sadiq

GRAD - Alex S from Sienna Leonne

Alex - Sophia C from Sally Seo

Allard - Nessa C-B from Natalie Lawrence

Ellis - Daniel P from Santiago Godin

Hope - Renee L from Brynn Alexander

Mackenzie - Lauren Y from Simone Henderson

Privett - Danny H from Ian Standish

Rogers - Hezekiah O from Kris Laurion

Whittall - Conner C from Garey Gan

Assistant Head Prefect - Arts - Will K from Maddi Andrews

Assistant Head Prefect - Athletics - Alex R from Sean Monterro

Assistant Head Prefect - Academics Teagan M from Toby Collis Handford

Head Prefect - Katlan S from Tyler Pickford

 

Enjoy the Summer. We will rejoin our adventure in September.

Bud Patel, Head of School

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