Student Investiture and Beacon Charter Speech

Following is the motivating speech given by Sonia van Kempen, of the Beacon Foundation,  at the recent student investiture and Beacon Charter ceremony.



16TH MARCH 2012

It’s my honour to be here at Hawkesdale P-12 College and to participate in this very special day.  It’s great to see so many leaders in the school community formally recognised today and I’m sure they will do an outstanding job fulfilling their roles this year.

So what makes these students different to any of you who aren’t undertaking leadership roles this year?  What makes them leadership material?   If you think about this you will probably come up with answers such as “they are good communicators,”  “they are team players,”  “they are hard working,”  “they are confident,” and so on.  You are right; there are many qualities and skills that good leaders have but you also have these qualities inside you, they may need to be developed and improved but you have them.  Do you know what I think the big difference is?  It’s very simple. I think it’s the fact that they’ve decided to stand up and say “YES, I can do it!”  “I can set a good example to others and be a leader in my school and my community.”

We can all be leaders in our own lives.  The Beacon program is all about getting you to recognise what you are good at and using this information to be successful.  Great leaders do this.  The find out what they good at and then they become exceptional at it!

Every one of you in this room has the ability to be a leader everyday of your life if you CHOOSE to – and it is a choice, you have to want to do it.  Being a leader isn’t about being the boss or being in control – this is what we usually think but it’s wrong.  Being a leader is all about setting a good example, using your words, your actions and most importantly your influence to have a positive impact on yourself and those around you.  Being a leader is about making good decisions and having the right attitude.

There’s an old saying relating to this that I think is very true – “ATTITUDE DETERMINES ALTITUDE!”  Put quite simply this means the way you look at things or think about things influences your chances of reaching your potential and being successful.  The more positive and encouraging you can be in your life, the greater impact and influence you will have on your peers and the more willing people will be to help you achieve your goals.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re doing opportunities to be a leader exist everywhere.  It’s what you do with these opportunities that will determine what sort of person you are and how successful you can be.

My advice for you today and everyday is to take these opportunities to lead, no matter how small or insignificant they seem.  It may be something as simple as taking the initiative to clean your room without being asked to, helping someone with a problem at school or work, or accepting an umpire’s decision at football or netball without argument

The more you practice and develop your leadership skills and potential, the more they will grow and eventually you may find yourself up here on a day like today being recognised as a student leader in your school.  It all starts with a belief in yourself. Remember what I said earlier, good leaders work hard to make good decisions and good choices.  In dong this they lead by their example and inspire others around them to do the same.

In conclusion I’d just like to revisit the point I made at the beginning of my talk.  There is a leader inside each one of you.   Don’t keep your leader hidden, put it on display everyday for the world to see.  Embrace your inner leader, show him or her off to the world and enjoy the sense of self worth, achievement and success that comes with being a leader.

Thank you for listening to me today, I wish each and every one of you all the best for your school year in 2012 and your future beyond.  I hope to see many of you up here next year setting a great example for others to follow.

   SONIA VAN KEMPEN     16/03/2012



Our student investiture 2009

Jason Mirtschin - former student addresses the assembly
Jason Mirtschin – former student addresses the assembly

  Below, is a copy of the speech made to the assembled gathering of students, staff, parents and invited guests for the student investiture ceremony for 2009. The speech was made by a former student, now teacher at Hawkesdale P12 College, Jason Mirtschin who has returned to Australia from his 5 year posting in London.

“Firstly I would like to thank the principal, Mr Distel for allowing me to speak today at such an important occasion us here at Hawkesdale P-12. I still remember sitting here – similar to you, listening to other guest speakers come in and talk, but especially I remember the times when we had past pupils come in and share their experiences. It was these times that I listened the most. I liked thinking that they were just like me. That these people had been given the same opportunities as me. And I would sit and wonder what I would do when my turn came around.

So I thought long and hard about a theme for my talk today and have decided that it is that one word opportunity that I would like to focus on. After all, it is the main reason why we are gathered here today. To celebrate the opportunity that a small number of pupils have been given to act as ambassadors, to help create school spirit and proceed as role models for younger pupils.

I’ve remembered a lot about my youth since returning to Hawkesdale. A lot of people have asked if anything has changed and on the whole I would have to say “no”. People still come in talking about their summer staying in Port Fairy or Warrnambool, what they got up to at the folk festival, how their pre-season is going for football and netball and which person is having a party next weekend.

But a lot of important things to the district were changing at the time I was leaving here to go to university in Melbourne. The football club had merged with Macarthur, the Minimite shire offices had closed, the school had become a P-12 , the scouts were struggling for numbers and a few of the other small businesses were looking like closing. Which makes me think – how different would my life be today if I hadn’t grown up in a community such as this one. I’m not sure that I would be as confident as I am today without them or whether I would be prepared to take the risks that I do today. The majority of us here should be grateful that our parents work so hard to ensure that these opportunities are not lost from the community. For without them I would not have been captain of the football and cricket teams, vice captain of the school.

I took physics with Mr Wines, Chemistry with Mrs Webster, Maths methods with Mr Quinlin, Specialist maths with Mr Hillman and English with Mr Jarrod. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the end of year 12 but I was always encouraged to go to university. I wasn’t dux of my year at any point but my parents said that it was important that I got a qualification from university and that a number of doors would be opened if I did this. Any time I tell people that my average class size in year 12 was about 4 people I get some strange looks. But the individual attention you get means that the opportunity of success is increased dramatically.

So after I completed my schooling here I studied science at Melbourne University and was offered a place to stay on residence at St Hildas college. I highly recommend this experience if you get the chance to. Most of my best friends were made while living there. I graduated after 3 years and still didn’t quite know what to do next. I decided that at some point I would like to travel and thought about the possible careers that would allow me to do this.So I enrolled in a one year diploma of education and then taught in Melbourne for 3 years to get some experience.

I then decided it was time to experience life in another country and took 1 years leave without pay from my school in Melbourne. I tossed up whether to go somewhere different like China or Dubai but had heard a lot of great things from my friends about living in London. So I decided to go to the UK to experience a different lifestyle. And five years later I still feel that I could stay indefinetly in the UK or another country. Why? I could talk for days about the things I have been given the opportunity to do over the past 5 years alone but perhaps I will just mention a few things from the month leading up to when I left the UK at Christmas. The number of bands that tour London is incredible; I saw Kings of Leon and Coldplay in December, went away for the weekend with some mates from work to a country in eastern Europe called Poland to see the Christmas markets there, I went and watched the Lion King in the West End, I stayed in a village with the dramatic ruins of a castle built 600 years ago, I went ice-skating by the Thames in front of London Bridge and had some lovely meals at Spanish, Greek and Indian restaurants. All in one month!

If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be doing some of these things, I probably would not have believed them. I’ve seen and done a lot of amazing things in this time. I attended the last soccer world cup in Germany and watched Australia play Brazil, I took a train through Russia, Mongolia and ended up in China to see the Olympic games, I’ve taken a camel ride in the desert in Tunisia – Northern Africa, I’ve raced down a slope on a bobsled at 200km per hour in Estonia in Eastern Europe, I’ve visited medieval cities like Prague in the Czech republic and sat in the town square at night while it snows around me, I’ve seen ruins from ancient times in Italy and Greece, I’ve stood on battle fields and concentration camps from world wars where 1000s of people were being eliminated each day, but more importantly, I’ve made new friends with people all over the world.

Our junior captains 2009

Our junior captains 2009

Our whole school assembly

Our whole school assembly