Kyle Baker is proof that running away to the circus can really pay off.
The Blackfriars graduate, who is a performer and coach with CircoBats Community Circus, has been honoured with the Governor of South Australia Commendation for Excellence in Modified SACE Award.
Kyle, 18, who has an intellectual disability, spent most of his early years at a special school, before coming to Blackfriars as a Year 10 student in 2019.
“We fought for ages to get him out of the special school environment and he has just thrived at Blackfriars,” Kyle’s foster mum, Vashti Janzen, said.
“Blackfriars has instilled some great values in him.”
Kyle – who this year won the Order of Australia Association Student Citizenship Award, as well as a Creative Arts Award for Academic Excellence – became involved in CircoBats when he first came to live with Ms Janzen as a seven-year-old.
“The thing with circus is that it’s one of those things that attracts people from different, diverse backgrounds and abilities,” Ms Janzen said.
Over the years, Kyle has performed numerous gigs with CircoBats, including at the Adelaide Fringe, while completing coaching qualifications with Gymnastics SA.
He has also played lacrosse, using those skills to coach an under-11s team at Blackfriars.
Importantly, during Year 12, he acted as a mentor to a Primary School student who was having some troubles of his own.
“The positive influence on the young boy was evident to all concerned,” Ms Janzen said.
“Everything Kyle does, he puts his mind to it, and with support from the people around him, Kyle can achieve anything.
“We’re terribly proud. It (the Governor’s Commendation) is recognition for Kyle and for anyone else that’s coming from a challenging background … a lovely recognition that they can achieve.
“He genuinely is a lovely young man … who’s starting to just find his feet in the world.”
Kyle, who was nominated for the Governor’s Commendation by Drama teacher Bob Becker following his work in the Year 12 production of 19: A Reporter’s War, was “shocked” to discover he had won.
“I was definitely not expecting to get any awards,” Kyle said.
He said being involved in Blackfriars’ drama program had been a highlight of his time at the school.
“I just love performing,” he said.
Of his mentoring and coaching roles, he said: “I guess, for me, it’s not about being a leader, it’s just what I feel I need to do.”
Kyle is now eyeing a career in nursing – saying “helping others just makes me feel happy” – or moving to Melbourne to do a degree in circus arts.
Mr Becker said Kyle deserved the recognition.
“He just did stuff over and above what a student should do,” Mr Becker said.
“His work in the drama production was sensational. He worked really well with the practitioners we had coming in … he worked well with my ideas, his own ideas, there was a really good synergy going on. He ticked all the boxes. As a collaborator, he was great to work with.”
Kyle will return to Blackfriars in 2022 to perform in the school’s encore production of 19: A Reporter’s War as part of the Adelaide Fringe.