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Alumni & Friends

Western Springs College | Seddon High School | SMTC
Issue 8 | 2017

Our mission is to re-connect with all students, teachers and friends of Western Springs College, Seddon High and SMTC. 

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Principal's Update

Alumni will be interested in development on-site in relation to the new school. Work has now been completed on the site for the new three storey teaching block and gymnasium.  This huge building will be 126 meters long and 40 metres wide!

To provide a firm foundation for the build, and to rid us of the subsidence issues that you will all be familiar with, 18,000 cubic meters of landfill were removed and replaced with crushed
concrete. This consumed about $6 million of our $79 million budget. Stage two of the excavations will remove 7,000 cubic metres of landfill for the new two storey Waiorea teaching block and whare tapere.

As the build gets underway there will be up to 200 workers on-site. Our new school is being built for 1700 students with an expansion zone up to 2,500! Many of us worry that Springs we know and love would be a very different place if it grows to that size. The re-build though is exciting, challenging and the final renderings are really quite beautiful.

Do keep an eye out for promotional material around a public meeting in term 4 so that we can share some of these images with you.

Springs developments are just one of the projects around our precinct. You will see shortly the establishment of separated cycle lanes on Meola Road and Old Mill Road; a $50 million development in the zoo for orangutans and tigers; a massive MOTAT redevelopment and hopefully a carpark on the wasteland between Seddon Fields and Springs to relieve traffic/parking pressures.

On the staffing front, many of the teachers that you know and love remain with us. Where else would they want to teach I say! At the end of this year we farewell Mr Paul Wickham after 47 years of service to the school. This is truly an outstanding period of service and I know many of you will wish him well in his retirement.

Principal Ivan Davis

Alumna, Bernice Austin on creative freedom, strawberries and old school jazz. 

Opera singer Bernice Austin completed her Masters in Music (with first class honours) at the University of Auckland in 2015 and she also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Italian. Her musical journey began when she joined the Mt Roskill Children’s choir at age six. She didn’t think much of singing until (inspired by her friends and other students at Western Springs) she had her first singing lesson in year 11, in the old music block.

More recently, in 2015 she travelled to the United States to sing in the International Art Song festival Songfest. Bernice is a previous winner of the John Bond award for most promising voice at the New Zealand Aria Competition and a recipient of the Anne Bellam Scholarship. In 2016-2017 she was a part of Artist Lee Mingwei’s performance installation ‘Sonic Blossom’ at the Auckland Art Gallery, where offered strangers the gift of song as they visited.

In May 2017 she sung as the soprano soloist in the New Zealand Premiere of Annelies by James Whitbourn (a large scale choral work based on the diary of Anne Frank) with the Auckland Youth choir and chamber ensemble.  She  is also a member of the New Zealand Opera chorus.

Aside from music she is an avid reader and researcher with a particular love of children’s books.

Attended Western Springs College : 2002-2006

School life, what it meant to me...

Western Springs was the first place I felt allowed, within formal education anyway, to truly be a creative. I know that sounds clique, but my teens, as for many of us, were not an easy time and finding that I was allowed to make art, music, write, tell stories and experiment at school helped me through a rough time. I maintain to this day, that had I not been in such a supportive and ‘just-give-it-a-go’ environment at school I would have never found the confidence to sing (probably other than in the shower). So despite looking back on my time at high school with a glance to the side and a little bit of relived teenage shame, I’m still profoundly grateful for my time at Western Springs. I now know that it was such a blessing to spend hours painting, developing film in the old dark room, making music, writing and just generally getting my hands messy without fear. It has all helped me sink into the everlasting, confusing and lifelong process that is creative work.

My greatest achievements...

The things I am proudest of within my work often come from  performing a new work or taking old works and performing them in new ways. For example, I spent a few months working in the art gallery as part of a performance installation by an artist called Lee Mingwei called ‘Sonic blossom,’ which involved offering strangers the gift of song. It was a strange and powerful experience, and really brought home to me the importance of art makers and creatives of all sorts in our communities. In a hostile world being a creative can feel like an indulgent choice, but living and breathing with people through their own unique experiences of art, and what it frees within them, proves completely otherwise.

Another performance I am particularly proud of came as part of my masters degree, where I performed a one woman, one piano modern opera: At the Statue of Venus, by an incredible American composer called Jake Heggie. It is, coincidently, also set in an art Gallery, and tracks the course of one woman, Rose’s, 25 minute wait for a blind date standing by a statue of Venus. During her wait Rose has a hilarious crisis of belief about her choice of clothing (pants rather than a dress), fears that whoever is suppose to turn up has probably walked in, seen her, and disgusted, left without a word. She also reminisces about her childhood and what ‘love’ might actually be or mean. She considers being adored by an artist, as surrounded by portraits,  she feels somewhat intimidated by the idea of being or becoming someone’s muse.

I worked on the project for about six months. It was a labour of love and finally performing it after months of research was a total dream come true. After I’d finished my masters and feeling that empty feeling you get when a massive work has reached some sort of conclusion, I got the opportunity to fly to the States, meet the composer and sing an extract of the work for him in a master class. I was totally starstruck, it felt a bit like singing for Beethoven, but I’ll always remember how that felt and I hope our paths cross again some time. I would absolutely love to sing more of his works, and would hopefully be less starstruck (aka terrified) next time!

A source of inspiration...

My beautiful niece and nephew fill me and my family with energy and opportunities to see everything anew  (They are a constant and inexhaustible source of inspiration to me). Also research, namely books, I absolutely love reading. Classical Music of all kinds. Mozart (He’s a category all on his own). Art of all kinds. Travel. Nature. The list is endless, there is always something!

My working style...

I’m very processed based. By that I mean I try to learn by staying open to different approaches and being present while I do something. By always remaining open to new learning or other pathways I don’t ever get to be a total perfectionist (which is my tendency). If you’re performing you really can’t be a total perfectionist all the time, things will go wrong, and you have to be able to get back on the horse and love it and find meaning in it all the same, despite whatever might not have gone to plan.

Special to me...

Nature, especially spending time in the bush or at the beach, listening to birds and the sea. The Music of Beethoven and Schubert (their music is so often about light breaking through the dark and about all the best kinds of hope).

I love...

Fresh Strawberries, anytime, anywhere, yum. Old school Jazz, my ears eat it like my mouth eats strawberries.

I dislike...

That the art form that chose me has terrible gender representation. Where are the classical female composers from before 1950? Don’t even get me started on some of the works themselves.

Thought on life...

One thought that is playing on my mind a lot at the moment is that the greatest barrier to learning is thinking you know everything. It is like that wonderful quote from Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  It reminds me that being grateful, optimistic and hopeful is born of being open to the fact that we never know anything exactly. Also that everything and everyone has something to teach us if we give them the opportunity.

Alumnus, Samuel Gavin reminisces about his time at Western Springs College.

My name is Samuel Gavin. I am PhD Candidate in Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA…and I am also a Springs student! I went to Western Springs College between 2001 and 2005. I look back on my time at Springs as the best of my school years. I discovered many of my interests and developed many of my skills there, and I also made friends that I have kept to this day.

I remember that those years were a time of change for Springs. 

There were only three houses when I began (Atea, Moana, Whenua) — I was in Atea, then later Kapura when that house was created.But the school was beginning to grow and increase in popularity, under the leadership of Ken Havill. I was very sorry to hear about his passing. I recall that in my first year at springs, my year 9 core class was particularly unruly, and Mr Havill took over our English class for a term. It was an enjoyable time, and needless to say, the class got its act together.

During my time at Springs I saw the creation of the jazz band, the orchestra and the maths publication and the introduction of NCEA (I was in the second year of students under that system). I saw the construction of TAPAC and was involved in the first school shows there. As far as I can tell, Springs has continued going from strength to strength since I left. I’ve kept abreast of developments from a distance, thanks to my mother Beth Parker who was the “Front of House” person for Springs up until last year.

My favourite subjects at Springs were music with Margaret Robertson and history with Graeme Moran, both of which continue to be important to me. While I was not a very motivated English student, I also remember getting very excited about an essay project, which I chose to write on moral issues in literature. I really went above and beyond for that assignment, doing far more work than was necessary for the two credits! This is probably the point where I started to become seriously interested in philosophy, though it wasn’t a separate subject at secondary school at the time. A couple of years ago, I had the enjoyable experience of speaking to one of the Year 11 philosophy classes about ethics and animal rights. I have to say, the Springs philosophy students are very engaged and show more enthusiasm for the subject than some of my students at university!

While music has remained a hobby of mine, I went on to study philosophy, history and politics at the University of Auckland. I discovered I had a real passion for philosophy and chose it as my major. I went on to do a BA(Hons) and an MA in the subject. From there, I applied to various universities in the United States to pursue a PhD in philosophy and was lucky enough to get into the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt is not a big name university, but it happens to be one of the top schools for philosophy worldwide, so I was very pleased to have been accepted there.

I’m now entering my 7th year of study at Pitt and it’s this year that I hope to finish my dissertation. I was recently honored to receive a much sought-after Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Completion Fellowship, which will ensure I am fully funded throughout this crucial year. Here’s how I introduce my research project on the Newcombe Foundation website:

"When I first started to study philosophy, I was struck by the importance of the issues being discussed, especially in ethics. What could be more important, I thought, than how we ought to live? At the same time, I was struck by the depth of disagreement amongst philosophers. How was it possible that so many people earnestly seeking the truth still disagreed on so many fundamental issues? I was convinced that the greatest philosophers must actually agree with each other, if only we could understand the core of truth in their views and clear away what was superfluous.

Since then, my instinct in philosophy has always been to look for similarities between different approaches and try to reconcile them wherever possible. This has ultimately led to my current project, which attempts to harmonize two views on the foundations of ethics. Some philosophers, following Aristotle, think that human nature is the basis of ethics, emphasizing virtue, wisdom, and the pursuit of the good life. Others, following Kant, look to reason and rationality, emphasizing duty, autonomy, and respect for persons and the moral law. But isn’t reason and rationality also a part of human nature, as Aristotle himself thought? If so, why have these two schools of thought gone off on such different tracks? Since both have inspired generations of philosophers over the centuries, there must be something worthwhile in both.

Through my work, I seek to provide a way in which the insights of both traditions can be combined—and hopefully, we can get closer to the truth!"

I’ve come a long way, and I still have a long way to go, but I’m still proud to be a Western Springs Student!

A Kiwi teen serious about sustainability

Nikki Mandow
Photo Credit: David Tong

Alumnus, Na'or Tal Alfassi Berman has been more active around sustainability than most people are in a lifetime. Nikki Mandow finds out what drives the young environment leader.

When new Auckland Council Youth Advisory Panel member, 18-year-old environmental campaigner Na'or Tal Alfassi Berman, says he wants to host a party, he doesn't mean a barbeque and a few beers in the back garden with a bunch of mates. Alfassi Berman's planned event is a full-on summer beach festival potentially in Auckland's Orakei Bay - 5000 people, local upcoming bands like entertainers, food and stalls. But most of all, Berman sees his festival as a chance to promote what he believes is a critical sustainability message to people that might not normally be listening.

"When you get involved with the environmental movement, often you are talking to people who have the same beliefs you have. That's easy. What's more difficult is pushing these ideas with people who don't feel comfortable with them. My plan is to have 50 volunteers walking around having conversations with the festival goers about sustainability."

“There are plenty of non-converted to preach to. Lincoln University's 2016 report Public perceptions of New Zealand's Environment found only around 40 percent of Kiwis believe they have a "good" or "very good" knowledge of environmental issues. Less than 25 percent participate in an environmental organisation, and of those, only 13 percent are active members. And even the views we have are often incorrect.

More than 80 percent of survey respondents thought New Zealand's biodiversity was moderate or good, when the Department of Conservation lists almost 2730 threatened or at risk species. Conversely, we worry increasingly about fish stocks - the number of people thinking marine fisheries are badly managed has increased markedly over the last five years. But in fact the study suggests our performance is improving. "In 2015, 96.8 percent of fish caught were from stocks that are not overfished."

Alfassi Berman sees his place on the Youth Advisory Panel as an opportunity to do more for the environment. And that's with a bar set high - he may be only just legally an adult, but he's been more active around sustainability in his short years than some of us are in a lifetime.

Ken Havill

8 Dec 1949 - 29 April 2017

Ken Havill, prinicpal of Western Springs College for 19 years, was farewelled at a moving service in the Western Springs College Hall.

Ken lay in state in Nga Oho until his funeral in the school hall on Thursday, May 4th.  A huge turnout of 700 people shared in the stories and memories of family, colleagues and friends of Ken.  This was an occasion that was both moving and uplifting, as well as a tribute to Ken's devotion to this school and the people that have been part of this educational community during his time here which spanned the years 1990 to 2016.

Strong leaders shown the way.

Western Springs College, Nga Puna o Waiorea once again sent two students to the annual AUT Shadow a Leader Day.  This year Zac Monk, was chosen for his work developing Wrap it Up, a sustainable beeswax food wrap business he was instrumental in setting up and Kiriataahua Te Maapi Pene was chosen because of the work with Youthline.

Kiri talks about her experience.  I was honoured with the opportunity to attend this year’s annual AUT Shadow a Leader Day. This event is a part of leadership week and involves a high school student pairing up with an AUT student and together, ‘shadowing’ an influential and inspiring business leader for the day.

The nomination for Shadow a Leader came off the back of my work with Youthline,  the work involved developing a peer support networking framework, where I was connecting students, family and friends with youthline resources. This was very rewarding work and resulted in a lot of my friends finding alternative pathway and career opportunities.

The 2017 Shadow a Leader Day began early at the AUT business school where students met with their leaders, other students and listened to inspirational stories from a number of leaders over an amazing breakfast.  We then departed and shadowed our leader for the day. I was paired with Bev Cassidy who is the Chief Executive of Diversity Works NZ - an organisation who teaches and encourages many businesses to make their workplace more diverse. My day was full of visits to different organisations, meeting many influential people and gaining job interview skills - it was a very productive day. I enjoyed it very much and am grateful that I was nominated to be apart of such an event.

Zac spent the day with Ewen Anderson, Investment Director at Next Foundation,

Waterpolo Success

This year the Senior A Boys Waterpolo team has exceeded all expectations and made WSC history.

Coached by Brydie Hunt and managed by Beth Carberry the team achieved the following:
- 2nd at the NZSS Div 2 North Island champs. After narrowly losing a penalty shoot out in the final against Tauranga Boys High.
- 2nd in the Auckland Schools Div 2 Competition
- 3rd at the NZSS Div 2 Nationals. Completing the tournament by only losing 1 game by 1 goal.

It was definitely a team effort with strong performances all around throughout the year, where commitment, hard work and a great team culture was our focus.

Kelly McDowell (yr 10) was even selected for the NZSS tournament team after his performance at Nationals. An amazing accomplishment for someone so young!

Orienteering Enthusiasts

Sylvie Frater has recently been selected for the New Zealand Junior Girls Orienteering Team and Anna Cory-Wright has been selected as a reserve.

The two Springs year 10 friends have been orienteering together since primary school and got into the sport through their fathers, who are both involved.

So why do they love it?  The girls say, it is always different, never boring. They get to go really cool places, sometimes across amazing areas where no one else can go, plus there are great opportunities to travel overseas.

Sylvie and Anna will be heading to Sydney in September to compete Australian Nationals and the Southern Cross challenge, seven races over ten days!  We wish them luck.

Western Springs College

100 Motions Rd, Western Springs,
Auckland 1022, New Zealand
Phone (+64 09) 815 6730 | Fax (+64 09) 815 6740

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