Integral to the establishment, culture and traditions of Knox Grammar School is the idea of ‘a purposeful life’.
Scott James, Headmaster
Articulated most clearly by Knox’s founding Headmaster, Neil MacNeil, a purposeful life is one in which a student stands firm in his or her values, develops personal goals, and, most importantly, embraces a sense of social responsibility and desire to contribute to society as a whole.
Consistent with our School values of Faith, Wisdom, Integrity, Compassion and Courage, students today contribute to a wide range of social justice and service learning projects. Appropriately, ‘Global Mindfulness’ is one of the focus areas of the 2018-2022 Strategic Direction document, seeking to prepare and inspire students to be active, informed and responsible global citizens.
Many social justice and service learning projects are either student driven or involve students working collaboratively with staff. Positions of responsibilities (such as Social Justice Prefects, Social Justice Captains, year group advocates and student leaders) all work to support and advocate for communities beyond Knox through outreach programs across Australia and the world.
Students are encouraged to make a difference, to give to others and are provided with opportunities to take action.
Examples of social justice and service learning programs include Shoes for the Philippines initiative, NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors Christmas Gift Drive and the Wesley Mission Christmas Hamper Collection, the annual ABBOX Sony Foundation Children’s Holiday Camp, Gala Day Social Justice stall and the Year 10 Service Learning Program.
The School has strong connections with a number of associations and we continue to fundraise and partner with the following: Legacy, Bear Cottage, The Variety Club of Australia, The Salvation Army, KYDS Youth Development Service, Diabetes Australia, and Uniting World.
Every year, boys volunteer to be involved with the remote school immersion and community links program, including the Nyngan Super Camp. Goodooga Indigenous Games and the Enngonia Immersion. International Immersion programs (including the Papua New Guinea Kokoda Experience, the Cambodia Service Journey and the Borneo Immersion) are authentic experiences, where students work alongside communities, share a journey and gain an understanding of different cultures. From these experiences, they learn more about the complexities of local, rural and world issues and are empowered to put compassion into action. The Reconciliation Action Plan Committee, which is championed and led by students, is one example.
The Knox Preparatory School’s Service Learning Program includes Year 3 support of the St John’s Uniting Church initiative ‘The Dish - a program which provides meals to homeless people in Hornsby every Friday and the Year 4 Recycling Program aimed at creating a more sustainable community environment. Year 5 boys involve themselves through Compassion in Action, which sees boys working in small groups to identify an organisation they would like to assist by either raising awareness or giving their time to serve. Finally, Year 6 work in partnership with St Lucy’s Primary School.
In addition, year groups of all ages will select a charity or cause to support each year, and students assume responsibility for the work needed to promote their cause.
The social justice and service learning program is central to a Knox education. Students are provided with age appropriate opportunities to participate in initiatives to assist those in need and to engage with contemporary issues that affect others.
They are encouraged to act out their values, learn to recognise their own giftedness and generously share those gifts for the service of others. By doing so, students are provided with the opportunity to grow and prosper as well-rounded and grounded individuals with a firm sense of justice and an understanding of empathy and advocacy.
Scott James, Headmaster
This article was originally published in the December 2019 edition of The Thistle.