Head Prefect's Address, Closing Day 2020
Hi everyone, students, grads, families, friends, faculty and anyone else who may be watching. Welcome to my vlog! I really think that’s the only appropriate thing to call “this,” as I’m dressed up and made up only to be in sweats within minutes of delivering this message.
Further qualifying this as a vlog is the fact that I really don’t know if you’re listening. You could be hanging onto my every word or making a sandwich. Either way, welcome. I’m actually really grateful for the platform I’ve been given to talk to all of you for the past year and even more grateful for those who have made it possible for me to properly address you all for the last time, regardless of us not all being together. Anyways, I don’t want to dwell too much on why we’re not all under a big white tent in the Mill Bay summer heat together, because we’ve talked about that enough. This COVID-19 situation has really gotten me into podcasts; nerdy I know, but some of them are really good. My favourite is super simple: the host asks her celebrity guests about the best piece of advice they’ve ever received and in return she says “Whoa, that’s good!” So, in true fashion of what the youth call “storytimes,” I’d like to bring you all along on a trip down memory lane, offering some advice along the way and, hopefully, you’ll pause from spreading the mustard on your sandwich bread and say “Whoa, that’s good.”
To my young ones. My future Grade 8s and 9s. First of all, I want to apologize, like genuinely, genuinely apologize, because we older students, staff, and faculty really do mess with you just for the sake of it. I mean, can we talk about the fact that we make Grade 8s sit on the stairs of the Bunch Theatre during assemblies or that we impose arbitrary punishments upon our Grade 9 boarders? Still, you guys have taken it like champs and I commend that.
Here’s the advice I have for you guys. When I was in Grade 9, I tried out for the Junior A Volleyball team. I had played back home in Saudi for a couple of years, and I had been considered “good” by those standards. When I got to Brentwood, my entire concept of the sport fell apart. My tryout was ok, but I guess not enough to fully convince the coaches, because though I made the roster, Mr Robinson and Ms Hall said to me “We think you have potential, but there’s a lot of room for growth.” They said I could attend practices, but that the likelihood of taking me along for tournaments was quite low.
It sucked, until it didn’t. At every practice, I’d work to show them I was eager to learn, eager to get better. That I deserved to be there. I think I did a decent job, because, not to toot my own horn, but they brought me to every single tournament, ignoring the conditions they had initially set out. I guess what I want you young ones to know is that you have to keep showing up. Yeah, we make fun of you guys and try to rattle you, but keep showing up and keep striving for better, because it’s character building and you will most definitely get there.
Now, for my future Grade 10s, I’m going to tell you the exact opposite. What makes Brentwood special is the connections we get to make with one another, but that’s also its tragic flaw. From house meetings where we tend to pile on top one another as if there’s no other places in the room to sit, to blasting Hannah Montana tunes on the road to a tournament and feeling the heat of the bus increase from all the hot breath of singing, we’re constantly surrounded by people. In my Grade 10 year, I distinctly remember two occasions where I felt like I needed to get out.
The first was around October - November and I was just over it. Everything. So, I called my aunt and my uncle in Calgary and asked them if they would let me come live with them if I enrolled in public school there. Keep in mind, I hadn’t discussed this with my own parents who were back home in Saudi, but I had a plan and I was ready to execute. They eventually calmed me down and here I am, happy and complete, so I guess that worked out, but at the time, I was dead serious. The second scenario happened multiple times. We students know that Saturday night ‘Dons runs’ with all your friends are Brentwood tradition. It’s just the way it is. On days I wasn’t vibing with the whole social interaction thing, I’d walk at the back of the group on the way up so that when nobody was paying attention, I’d slip away and head back to my room to watch Netflix. It sounds sad, but it really wasn’t. Maybe my method of finding time for myself was not the best, but I guess what I’m trying to say is to try and figure out strategies to take care of yourself as an individual first. Everything else will follow. I promise.
To the next set of Grade 12s. Yeah, I know I skipped the Grade 11s; I’ll come back for you guys at the end. To the Grade 12s, my advice is very simple. This is your veteran year. You’re a seasoned Brentonian, whether it’s your first, second, third, or fourth year at Brentwood, so believe me when I say that you will be treated as such. They say everyone looks up to the Grade 12s and that this is not the year to be messing around, because you’re setting a bad example. Don’t be disrespectful or make negative contributions to the community, EVER, but I’d encourage you guys to test your luck a little bit and try to define for yourself who you want to be when you leave this place.
Is it colourful, patterned socks really get you going? Will you die if your kilt isn’t rolled 14 times? If yes, I can’t tell you not to do these things. Mr Sullivan may think he can, Ms Hall may think she can, but that’s only if they catch you. I remember Mr Lee telling me that sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness rather than beg for permission and those, my friends, are words to live by.
Ok, this section here's: Ugh, ok, let’s start with my heroes, Ms Lana, Chef David, Chef Morgan, Ms Gisella, and all of their friends in the kitchen. They are the embodiment of a growth mindset. According to my tastebuds, the food here has progressively increased in quality by the year, and honestly, it’s quite ridiculous. You want POKE bowls? They’ve got it. Hawaiian braised bbq ribs? They’ve got it. Poke bowls with Hawaiian braised bbq ribs with creamy slaw and rice? They’ve got it. You want all of that to go with a bow on top, ketchup and napkins in the bag with the receipt stapled to the side? They’ve got you. I have no advice for these guys. Keep doing what you’re doing, I’ll be back for Sunday brunch in a few months.
This mindset isn’t exclusive to the kitchen staff. Their willingness to step everything up to the next level is total madness, but it’s the culture of our Brentwood staff, laundry, maintenance, house parents, teachers, coaches, nurses and everyone in between. You’d think they’d hit a roof, that there was some sort of cap on their abilities. That they’d tap out at some point and say “I’m out! That’s my limit” but I promise you, that doesn’t exist for them. I mean those of you who have had Ms. Richardson as a teacher KNOW that there is always something else to learn and a brand new way to learn it. Our Brentwood adults don’t stop and we are so grateful for that.
Ok parents, let’s have a little chat. You know, I’ve thought about it and it must be so difficult sending your children to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people and just sitting back, hoping you’ve made the right decision. Again, I’ll keep it simple on this one. Trust that your kids are in good hands, but prepare yourselves for the days you will have to burn bridges and swing bats to defend them. People aren’t perfect, so no institution can be either. As kids we appreciate having you there as a line of defense and support.
Alright, so I’m sure you’re wondering why I’ve saved the future Grade 11s until now. They say to save the best for last … that’s not what this is. I think I’m just genuinely and deeply confused at the thought of Yehya Jama being a senior. He said, and I quote, “People think I’m stupid because what I’m saying is just so intellectual like, they just don’t unerstand.” This is coming from a boy who thought it was a good idea to spend the night on his outdoor trampoline with his laptop and then proceeded to get rained on and thought, “Huh, I’m just going to lie on top of this laptop until the rain goes away.” Intellectual indeed. Yehya aside, this group is full of amazing individuals who I’m positive have the ability to make Bentwood an even better place than it already is. You’re not babies anymore and I’m so excited to see what you do with your new freedoms and responsibilities.
So that’s the end. No need to like, comment, or subscribe, because this is real life and the lessons and the people that have impacted me along the way mean a lot more to me than that. Anyways, you all know emotional sappy stuff is not my thing, so we’re going to end this as a celebration. For the last time, today is National Roadtrip Day. We’re all setting foot onto new roads, but I have a feeling, just a little hunch that, someday, our paths will cross again.
Oladimeji Olatunbosun, Head Prefect, Hope ‘20