Celebrating excellence – our 2017 Prize Giving Ceremonies

On Tuesday 28  2017, Wynberg hosted its premier academic events – our annual prize giving ceremonies. To accommodate the numbers of parents and girls in our hall, we needed to have two events: the Grade 8 & 9 ceremony in the morning, and the Grades 10 & 11 in the evening.  On both occasions the hall was filled with excitement and pride as educators and parents celebrated the achievements of our learners in 2017 .  We congratulate all of those who excelled in their academic, culture, service or sport and consequently received their well-deserved awards.

The audience were welcomed by Mrs Harding, who sketched briefly the achievements of the year. It was also an occasion in which she announced, for the first time, the values and vision statement which staff, parents and, most importantly, the young women at Wynberg have discussed, debated and embraced as ours, in our efforts to re-imagine Wynberg.

INTEGRITY We conduct ourselves in all areas of our lives with honesty, honour and trust-worthiness
RESPECT We value ourselves, other people, and the environment by recognising their rights and dignity and we take responsibility for our behaviour
INCLUSIVITY We accept and include people who are different to us and make an effort to create a school in which everyone feels that they belong
EMPATHY We try to put ourselves in the shoes of others, to understand people, and respond with compassion, kindness and consideration
COURAGE We strive to do the right thing and, through innovation and a pioneering spirit, challenge our boundaries and never give up.
ACCOUNTABILITY We are responsible citizens and remain true to our commitments in all spheres of our lives.

She reminded the Grade Elevens particularly, that their class would be the first group of Grade 12’s who would matriculate with these specific values as core principles of their school.  Publicly announced for the first time was our mission statement: Wynberg Girls’ High School is a value-based, eco and socially conscious learning environment encouraging the development of confident and unique women who strive for excellence.

As the prize giving is a occasion in which achievement is celebrated, our guest speaker in the morning was Amy Campbell – a past pupil of Wynberg, who achieved great things at school (she is the recipient of the most prestigious award that Wynberg gives – The Golden Lion Award), in her field of study and as a professional jazz and musical vocal performer and teacher. Once of her most recent achievements is, as a member of the a cappella group AnecNote, winning the 2017 SA’s got Talent competition. She commented that, as the golden confetti was showered upon her winning team at this event, there was the thought that this success could be traced back to the opportunities offered and taken at Wynberg. And that was her message: whether or not you discover that “you suck” at something, stick at it for long enough to know that you do, and take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities that are on offer: at the time, you are unlikely to understand the significant impact they may have on your life.

In the evening our guest speaker was Dr Maxine Jones – or Dr Biltong as she has become widely known. We managed to get her just in time, because she leaves South Africa for the USA to become Managing Director of a startup biltong company in Seattle. As a visual symbol of her pride in the school, she wore her Matric blazer and spoke of the values and lessons learnt at Wynberg which had informed the decisions that she made after school.  Reminding us that “life is surprising”, she suggested that it was important not to let uncertainty discourage us. She talked, too, of grabbing opportunities with both hands and working to make them happen. Finally, she reminded us that we all have a purpose, and that it is important not to underestimate the importance of ourselves.   If one looks at the history of this school – the courage of Wynberg women to move into unknown territories – that pioneering spirit can be traced back to our first matriculants: and Dr Jones exemplifies that spirit.

After two very inspiring and successful ceremonies, it is hoped that our learners will find in the words spoken, and the experiences lived, clear points from which to chart their course.