Head girl induction speech 2016

Shayna van Vüren

Ms King, staff, parents and fellow St Mary’s girls, I am both honoured and proud to stand before you as the head girl for 2016. Honoured to have been chosen from a dynamic year group and honoured to have been afforded the opportunity to lead you all with integrity and grace. Proud because of all that St Mary’s stands for and proud to be able to represent each and every one of you sitting before me.

This morning, in keeping with the fresh and sunny weather, the leaders arrived at the chapel wearing neat blazers and bright smiles, ready to be inducted. We pledged allegiance to our office and to the school, and, as each one of us has an important role to play, I know that my fellow leaders will conduct themselves with honour and enthusiasm in carrying out the functions related to their positions.

Matrics, we are a strong grade, blessed with our own remarkable talents. Over the past four years some of these talents have emerged and have been recognised, yet within each of us lie many latent talents. With an intense academically focused year ahead, I think some of those talents may have to remain hidden for a little while longer.

Over the last four years we have STOMPed through Trees4Africa, pioneered bush school, brought the circus to the runway in our dazzling fashion show, and taken the matrics of 2015 on a journey to Marrakesh in planning their dance. Each of these activities brought individual talents to the fore.

That is a wonder of this school. There is so much to offer. Our special teachers are dedicated and skilled, providing us with such a varied programme and constantly guiding us. They allow our individual talents to bloom and have shown us how, when put together, we make a winning team. For me, it is important to acknowledge that our success lies in drawing from each other’s strengths, rather than overcoming challenges alone. And that applies to the whole school. Girls – we need each other.

Ms King has emphasised in the past the importance of women supporting each other in school, in the workplace and beyond.

Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook and a successful businesswoman, also acknowledges the strength women obtain and the heights they can reach by building each other up. I am reminding you of this today as we have grown up in a society that has placed us in a constant state of competition with each other on the basis of beauty standards, cultural backgrounds and historical privilege, and so often we feel compelled to separate ourselves from one another in order to achieve great things.

My deputies, Sasha de la Rey and Mutsa Danha, and I want you to think about how much more you can achieve in a positive environment with a good team, as we intend to demonstrate in leading the school this year.

Going into the busy year ahead, I would like to share some tips with you to help you power through 2016.

Procrastination is not your friend. Don’t wait until it’s too late to realise it.

Surround yourself with good people – those who will celebrate and motivate you.

Ask for help when you need it – you are in a place that encourages you to do so.

You are a work-in-progress — don’t expect to get everything right the first time! Matrics, this only applies for the first few months. Come October, best we all be shining.

No one is holding you back — not your friends, your teachers, nor your parents; you are the only one who can limit yourself.

The key to more success… is to have every key.

The key to open every door: bless up.

Most of all, enjoy every moment and smile. Be kind, be brave, and be confident.

I would like to read to you an adaptation of a poem by Clementine von Radics.

Advice for teenage girls with wild ambition and trembling hearts

Anne Frank was 13 years old when she disappeared behind a bookcase with her family. When they found her, she was treated as nothing more than a spark above a burning bush. Despite this, she still said, “I really believe people are good at heart.”

When Joan of Arc was 14, she heard a voice calling her to greatness. When the doubters called her crazy, she did not listen. She grabbed her sword and her shield in her two good hands. She was the maid of Untamed Patriotism.

Malala was 15 years old when a man climbed onto her school bus and insisted her sisters name her enemy. When she did not hide, she was shot three times in the temple. Three years later, in an ocean of survival and with no apologies, she stood before the United Nations and told the world how her country was burning.

When Mary Shelley was 16 years old, she invented science fiction in the story of a man named Frankenstein and his creator. She soon learned that little girls with big ideas are much more terrifying than monsters!

Cleopatra was 18 when she became Queen of the Nile.

And you too, are now standing on the precipice, trembling before your own greatness. There will always be those who say you are too young or too delicate to make anything happen for yourself, but they don’t see the part of you that smoulders. Don’t let their doubting drown out the sound of your heartbeat. You are the first drop of rain in a hurricane. Your bravery builds beyond you. You don’t need to grow up to find greatness. You are so much stronger than the world has ever told you you could be. The world is waiting for you to set it on fire.

Girls – always hold these ideals and aspirations in your heart: to be independent, respected, and respectful… to be kind, brave and confident. All the women named in the poem were young and courageous, and so are we. We are often told that as St Mary’s girls we have the capacity to do great things, and we do, but the attitude and mindset with which we approach different situations is crucial.

This year I encourage you all to smile. It is not intended to be an acronym, a catchphrase or a casual instruction, but rather, a memory trigger about the attitude with which you approach all endeavours. Let me remind you of a few points I brought up earlier:

Leaders – in fulfilling your duties with discipline and respect, remain mindful of the important task at hand; be approachable and friendly… and do it with a smile.

Girls – find and nurture your talents and when you have found your passion and you excel, smile with pride! Teamwork is crucial and often proves to be a lot more fun than going it alone. We have the potential to learn from each other and to accomplish so much more together when we do it with a smile in a constructive environment.

I bet you’ll be smiling when you find the master key among all the keys, the one that opens every door to success… and when that happens, let me know. And girls, when we achieve great things together as independent, brave and confident young women, always remember to smile!

Shayna van Vüren

St Mary’s head girl 2016