Good morning to the Headmaster, members of staff, prospective parents and boys.
I find it humbling to be back at Highbury and standing before you all today. My name is Joseph Mckenzie, I am a proud Highbury Old Boy and currently a prefect at Kearsney College.
I know all parents sitting here are exploring the right school for their boys, so I'm here to give you insight into my experience at Highbury, which I absolutely loved, and the subsequent move to Kearsney.
I started at Highbury in Grade R with Mrs Thwaites, and after a thoroughly enjoyable eight years I left these welcoming grounds in Grade 7. I had my old boys' tie around my neck, Highbury bible in hand and a sleeveless white jersey carefully covered in a blazer decorated with badges. I had grown so much in those eight years in all sorts of ways. I departed completely unaware of how well Highbury had prepared me for what lay ahead at high school. For example, Mrs Watkinson, who worked us like dogs in our Grade 7 year, instilled a strong work ethic and taught us time-management skills. Mr Cooper, Mr Wood, Mr de Reuck and Mr Vilakazi all instilled a strong sense of discipline, manners and respect in us boys. For me, Highbury was a wonderful springboard into Kearsney in that Highbury has strong focus on producing well-rounded boys, which perfectly mirrors the ethos of Kearsney.
To put it simply: Highbury taught me how to run, but then Kearsney showed me how to sprint.
For me, Kearsney has been a place where hard work, camaraderie and balance find fertile ground to grow.
In one of my first encounters with the Kearsney Headmaster, Mr van der Aardweg, he spoke to us Grade 8s about this concept of "Seize the day" and to "never ever ever ever give up". Thinking I had arrived at a survival camp, I was completely unaware of what he was talking about. As the year progressed, these messages became ingrained in me. I watched as the top academics achieved, as the choir won international awards, as the sportsmen won almost all matches and it became apparent that Kearsney boys were a brand of their own.
In my eyes, Highbury and Kearsney's most admirable characteristic is their focus on academic excellence and producing well-rounded boys.
Each boy regardless of his talents is supported and encouraged to succeed in his specific field - whether he be culturally inclined, a sportsman or an academic.
Both schools have an extremely strong focus on academics, because at the end of the day, it is the most important factor of our school careers. Highbury boys do very well at Kearsney and Kearsney boys do very well in matric, it's as simple as that. Testament to this would be Kearnsey's 100% bachelor degree pass rate last year and the fact that for the 8th year in a row 50% of Kearsney boys got an A for math. Highbury prepared me for Kearsney's strong academic focus and Kearsney continually prepares me for university. Pressure to succeed, cycle tests every Saturday as well as continued support from all teachers has led to my academic success.
Whether it be that I attend a lesson from 2-3pm before sport or send my teacher a message at 10 o'clock at night before an exam, they are always willing to help
During my 13 and bit years at Highbury and Kearsney, I've found the friendships amongst us boys to be like a diamond. In a diamond each molecule, is covalently bonded to another, giving it its extremely hard characteristic. Now please excuse me for the chemistry lesson here, but from what I have experienced: us as boys are all so closely knit that nothing can break the connection between us. For most of us, this connection started at Highbury, playing on Harris in our Grade R blue uniforms.
Now don't think for a second that, "Oh if I send my boy to Highbury he won’t ever make new friends in high school" as this is not the case. You move into Kearsney with your blazer two sizes too big as a new comer. You always keep the friendships you made back at Highbury but expand by making new ones. Kearsney allows for this by putting all Grade 8s in their own boarding house called Haley which allows them to bond as a grade before moving into the senior houses. Personally when I was in Grade 8, I slept in a dorm with three boys I had never met before, and today these boys have become some of my closest friends.
Now, although leaving the comfort of Kearsney and Mommy being only a phone call away is very daunting, I find comfort in knowing that the friendships I've made, the work ethic and time management I've learnt, as well as the manner in which I have been educated at both Highbury and Kearsney, has thoroughly prepared me for what lies ahead. For that, I will forever be grateful to my parents for sending me to such institutions.
Through my schooling career, Kearsney and Highbury have taught me two main lessons:
- As an individual, I need to keep moving forward. As expertly said by Martin Luther King, "If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward".
- Discipline is vital in order to achieve one's given aspirations and goals in sport, academics, cultural activities and absolutely everything else you do. A lesson I learnt is that: in life you will either experience the pain of discipline or the pain of regret, but in the end it all comes down to the choice you make.
Boys, make the most of all that lies ahead of you. Take every opportunity with a burning desire to invest your best into it and shape your future in a way that you will be proud of. To the parents, all the best in selecting your son's future school. I personally loved Highbury and I believe that it would be a wonderful choice for you. Thank you.