Holy Cross College, Ellenbrook
'I came that they may have life, and have it to the full' John 10:10

Connecting Communities and Fostering Partnerships

On the evening of Wednesday 17 June 2020, Holy Cross College hosted a dinner for the School Boards of St Helena’s Catholic Primary School and Holy Cross College. The evening commenced with an inspirational liturgy led by Fr Bona and Fr Ken and was held in San Salvador overlooking the Olive Grove, where the up-lights sparkled in the wet wintery night. Hopefully, the combined Boards’ dinner will be come an annual event.

The highlight of the evening was the address by our College Captains, Sophie Simonetta and John Topliss, which is presented below:

The theme of tonight’s Combined School Boards’ Dinner is “Connecting Communities and Fostering Partnerships”. The theme comes from the College Board’s strategic compass and, in particular, our strategic goals under the Inter-relationships Pillar. When talking about connecting communities, we aim to realise the full potential of our culturally diverse community. In fostering partnerships, we are aiming to build strong collaborative partnerships through enhanced communication with all members of the College Community.

These concepts seem fairly simple to grasp in theory, but what does this look like in practice? How can we truly connect our diverse communities and foster partnerships? At Holy Cross College we are extremely proud of our diverse and multicultural community, and have made a conscious effort to continue to build a community of acceptance and good will, or in the words of our Patron St Oscar Romero; “we water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise”. Before every College gathering we acknowledge the traditional custodians of our land, the Whadjuk Noongar people. This is a small way in which the College aims to build a closer bond with the indigenous members of our community.

As well as this, the College is proud of its’ ability to foster relationships within the school community by celebrating events such as Harmony Day and Sorry Day. Both of these are important to building a stronger bond amongst our communities because they recognise our nation’s turbulent history whilst navigating a pathway of unity for indigenous and non-indigenous peoples upon which to move forward. Harmony Day celebrates our diversity and multiculturalism as a College and community, whilst also raising awareness on the importance of cultural acceptance to growing and connecting our community, as well as fostering the diverse partnerships of the College.

Our vision at Holy Cross College is that “we are a community of transformation in the spirit of the Risen Christ”. We aim to emulate Christ in his never ending love for all people, whilst also drawing on the example of our College Patron St Oscar Romero in his unselfishness and his undying love and support for those in need. Our Parish Priest, Fr Bonaventure, often talks about the three main ways we can serve our community through; Our Talent, Our Treasure and Our Time.

Holy Cross College is fortunate to be so close to the Parish of St Helena of the Holy Cross. We aim to connect with our Parish and foster partnerships through the sacramental program, participating in the music ministry, sharing Masses and Liturgies with the parishioners, and through regular contact with Fr Bona and Fr Ken.

At Holy Cross College, our Christian Service Learning takes the form of the Giving Life program, which provides students with opportunities to serve and connect with the local community in the spirit of Catholic social teaching, with the students using their many talents and sacrificing their own personal time to do so. Our College also supports Catholic charities such as LifeLink, Caritas and the St Vincent de Paul Society, aiming to support their causes not only through donations, but through service and by raising awareness of their work amongst our College community. Just last week, we held our virtual sleepout for LifeLink, where students slept out at home and connected with each other through digital technology to participate in the activities. While the final total of funds raised is unknown, one student in pre-primary has raised over $1,285 for LifeLink charities. In 2019, after receiving our donation, Mr Brett Mendez, Media and Marketing Manager, Catholic Archdiocese of Perth responded:

“What your school does is the standard for what we hope all schools will do. I couldn’t write a strategic campaign that achieves all you do. You should be very proud … we are! Honestly, the impact your gifts have are far reaching. For example, it will help around 2000 people who visit the Shopfront.”

All of these activities and initiatives speak directly to our Vision for Learning where we challenge each student to achieve their personal best in an environment that values the respect and dignity of each person. We strive to develop visionary young people who embrace their changing world with confidence and optimism.

This is critical in a world that is beset by division through poor leadership, racial tension, economic uncertainty and the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.

Holy Cross College strives to teach and educate one another about the awesomeness of cultural diversity in the world and, in doing so, reconcile with people hurt by past actions that have caused pain and suffering. By fostering cultural awareness, understanding and acceptance, the College hopes to grow connected communities not only within our school, but in the world beyond school.

From our experience, John and I can confirm that this awareness of past events has allowed us to empathise with people less fortunate than ourselves. Building a connected community starts from within. The College broadens this to the bigger picture. How can we, as the representatives for the new generation, create a harmonious and connected culturally diverse community?

In many ways, St Helena’s Catholic Primary School and Holy Cross College are one community, connected by the Parish and united in a shared vision to serve the diverse Catholic community of the Ellenbrook region. This connection exceeds the time periods of the establishment of both Schools. St Helena was famously believed to have discovered the True Cross of Jesus Christ, hence why she is known as St Helena of the Holy Cross. I always find it amazing how the story of St Helena was continued 1800 years after her death, in Ellenbrook, some 13,300 km away from where she died in Rome, with Archbishop Hickey connecting both St Helena’s Catholic Primary School and Holy Cross College through the story of St Helena and St Helena of the Holy Cross Parish.

I began my educational journey in Kindergarten at St Helena’s Catholic Primary School. Even as a young four and a half year old, who was probably more interested in playing football and Lego than connecting communities and fostering partnerships, the connection between St Helena’s Catholic Primary School, Holy Cross College and our Parish was very clear. I remember attending Masses on a Sunday morning in the Undercover Area at St Helena’s Catholic Primary School, many years before the construction of our parish church. I can also clearly recall Holy Cross College’s initial administration working out of St Helena’s front office.

I have fond memories of my time at St Helena’s Catholic Primary School. I was lucky to have received a Christ centred education in a loving, embracing community atmosphere which the school created so well. The education I received there gave me the courage and strength to push my capacity for learning. When the time came for me to graduate primary school and move on, I was prepared. The closely connected relationship between the two schools created a bridge for me to walk over in my transition to high school, and although I was a little scared, I do have to admit, it felt like less of a leap and more of a stride into the world I find myself in now.

For my primary school education, I went to Arbor Grove Primary School. The transition into high school was daunting, but exciting for me. I had strong relationships and connections at my primary school. I had grown to know the teachers and had many positive relationships with my peers. Only a small number of students transitioned from Arbor Grove Primary School to Holy Cross College in 2015, however, this did not hinder my capacity to make connections to my new school through Year 7.

In a short time, through excursions and group activities or NEAS sports events, I got to know not only students from my own year, but students from other year levels as well. HTG (House Tutor Groups), are small classes with students combined from Years 7-12 who meet each morning. HTG has been an integral part of my connection to the wider Holy Cross College community. Through seeing these students every weekday morning, I was able to get to know students who weren’t in my year group, and who I wouldn’t have known without this experience. In doing so, over these past five years, it has allowed me to build lifelong friends.

As members of the graduating class of 2020, we will look back fondly on our time at Holy Cross College, as well as at St Helena’s Catholic Primary School and Arbor Grove Primary School. We will cherish the memories and the lifelong friends we have made and, hopefully, continue our connection and partnerships with all schools.

John Topliss and Sophie Simonetta
College Captains