On the Importance of Community Engagement

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At Redhill, we believe that it should be every student’s goal to make and leave a lasting impression on their society and on the world. Learning to give back to one’s community is an important step in the positive development of young people. With the right community engagement opportunities, our students can become active participants in helping solve societal problems and perhaps world issues.

Learning, through community engagement programmes, enables young people to connect what they learn in the classroom to real-world situations. Often, these experiences push them out of their comfort zones to see the world in new ways. These experiences encourage young people how to think critically about the world around them and prepare them to confront moral dilemmas and reflect on their own values.

Our students are capable of understanding complex issues and exploring complicated problems. Community engagement experiences will present them with opportunities to innovate by effecting change in their communities and beyond. At Redhill, we want our students to investigate and explore solutions to national and international problems. We need them to question and respectfully debate how to improve the society in which they live. For this, we need an engaged citizenry, who care enough to change established systems that are inefficient or unjust.

The various Redhill community engagement programmes, under the guidance of our Director of Community Engagement, Siphiwe Vilakazi, will give our students the opportunity to engage with such issues, developing them into questioning, caring and innovative young people.

Presently, we are partnering with The Tomorrow Trust in running a Saturday school programme at Redhill, providing comprehensive academic support to orphans and vulnerable children. We are hoping to involve our Grade 11 and 12 students in tutoring sessions.

Our Grade 10 students will be embarking on a community engagement programme, at Siyakhula Childcare and Support Centre in Orange Farm. This is a centre for abused, neglected and abandoned children. Our students will be involved in clearing, building and painting work.

We have also teamed up with Community Service Hours SA, who have created a portal, where our students will be able to find community engagement opportunities, in organisations that have been verified and approved.

I encourage all students and their families to get involved in the many community engagement programmes that are available at Redhill as well as those that are already operating within the broader community.

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Courage Up: On Resilience

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The American author, poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou once said –

“I’m not sure if resilience is ever achieved alone. Experience allows us to learn from example. But if we have someone who loves us – I don’t mean who indulges us, but who loves us enough to be on our side – then it’s easier to grow belief in self, to grow self–esteem. And it’s self–esteem that allows a person to stand up”.

In a world that seems to be ever-changing and at a pace like never before, the need to be resilient has become incredibly important. Our children need to be prepared for academic rigour as well as the social and emotional challenges that await them when they leave school. Here they will experience setbacks, disappointments and failure. The way in which they deal with this will ultimately determine their success.

While we need to support and champion our children, we also need to allow them to fail so that they can learn how to stand up again. In order to do this, they need to learn how to become resilient. I believe that building resilience in adolescents is about giving them coping mechanisms to bend, but not snap when the disappointments of life hit them. The more nurturing and caring the environment that adolescents are exposed to, both at home and at school, the stronger their resilience will be – provided the environment allows for them to have opportunities to explore, make mistakes and learn how to overcome adversity.

Many of the most successful, competent and influential people in the world had to overcome adversity. The ability to overcome setbacks, disappointments or failure can be determined by the amount of positive resilience, acquired by a person. Resilience should be understood as a vital ingredient in the process of parenting. A process that will strengthen our children’s ability to meet life’s challenges and pressures with confidence and perseverance.

At the first assembly of the year, I addressed the students on the topic of resilience. My expectation of them is to “courage up” and face adversity head-on.  With your support and the caring team of tutors that we have in place, I believe that we will be able to support our children in building the strengths and competencies required for them to succeed in the modern world.