Head Prefect’s 2023 Academic Assembly address

It’s an honour to stand before you on this stage, in the same spot that so many outstanding leaders have stood before me.

Today is a very special occasion that marks the end of a journey and the start of a new one. But, just for a moment, I’d like to take this opportunity to go back to the beginning of my journey here at Blackfriars. I vividly remember my first day of school being a mix of emotions. I was excited to be a high school student, I was sad to be leaving my primary school, and I was nervous about what might lie ahead as I had no idea what to expect.

If you had told me back then that, one day, I’d be standing on this stage in front of my entire school community, giving my final Head Prefect address at my graduation, I would never have believed you. In fact, back then, I had no intention of applying for a leadership position at all.

You see, I’m not that different to anyone else. I’m not the smartest, the funniest, the most athletic, the most talented, or the best-looking person in the room. And for the longest time, I had this preconceived notion that to be a leader, you had to tick these boxes. I thought you had to be the best at what you do and never make a mistake while doing it.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s how wrong I was in thinking that. There is no reason why any one of you can’t, one day, be standing up here, too. I’m not saying you have to follow in my footsteps. You shouldn’t, because you all have your own unique set of skills and traits that make you who you are, and it’d be a shame if you tried to change that. The best thing you can do is just be yourself. No one can do that better than you.

This is, perhaps, the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year – that, whatever you choose to do in life, the most important thing is your character. Your character is the sum of all the qualities that make you who you are: your values, your thoughts, your words, your actions. It’s the first impression people get of you when they meet you and it’s how they’ll remember you when you’re gone.

Developing character

There are so many ways we can develop our character, but I’ve found that mine has developed the most here at Blackfriars, particularly through the Four Pillars of Dominican Life – Prayer, Study, Community, and Service. This isn’t just our school motto or what it means to be a Blacks boy. It is both of these things, but it’s also so much more; it’s a foundation, one that we can carry into the next phases of our lives.

I remember being a new student at this school, looking up at the Year 12s and thinking, “I can’t wait until that’s me”. But, now that I’m here, I don’t really want it to end. If you haven’t already been told, you will, at some point, hear someone say, “make the most of your time here while you still can” because “it goes by so quickly” or “it’ll be over before you know it”. Unfortunately, no matter how many times you hear this, nothing will prepare you for when that time comes. It’s just something we all have to figure out on our own.

But I can give you a piece of advice from my experience that will hopefully help you the same way it did me: Try everything. You’ll spend nearly all day, every day here for however many years of school you have left, so you might as well experience everything it has to offer.

Pick that class you’re interested in, join that club you keep walking past, talk to someone new, play something else at recess or lunch, sit somewhere else in class, or try a different order at the canteen.

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but, when you graduate, all you’ll have left of this place are the memories you made, so the more you do, the more you’ll have to look back on. These are some of the best moments of your life.

Reuben Calleja addresses the 2023 Academic Assembly.

Thank you, all

Now, I’ve been talking about school as this journey I’ve been on, but I haven’t done it alone. There are so many people who have played a significant part in my life throughout my time here at Blackfriars, and I’d like to take a moment to thank them:

First of all, I want to thank all the teachers, and not just the ones who I’ve been taught by. Later tonight we’ll announce the students who have received awards for their academic achievements, and we owe so much of that to you but often don’t appreciate it enough. So, thank you.

I’d also like to thank:

  • The executive team for working alongside us Prefects to bring our ideas to life.
  • The arts departments for nurturing our passions and being like a second family.
  • The co-curricular coaches and sports staff for igniting our competitive spirits.
  • The canteen staff for keeping our bellies full and our wallets empty.
  • The maintenance team for keeping our school functioning – I know we’ve kept you busy, but hopefully we haven’t been too much of a hassle.

I also want to thank my family; my mum, dad, and sisters for everything they have done and continue to do for me. I don’t know where I’d be without your constant love and support over the years.

The Class of 2023 on the Aquinas Centre stairs.

And, lastly, to the Class of 2023

It’s been a privilege to take this journey with all of you. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we made it. Well … almost. I know we’ve all still got work to do when we go home. When I think about all the time we’ve spent together over these past few years, I realise that aspects from a lot of your personalities have kind of rubbed off on me and become part of my own. So, I can genuinely say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for all of you. The memories we’ve made together are ones I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, and hopefully, we can continue to add to them as we leave here.

But, like all good things, they must come to an end. Just like that first day of school, today has been a mix of emotions – I’m sure we’re all excited to start the next chapter of our lives, sad to say goodbye to this one, and nervous about what lies ahead. But wherever life takes us, let’s just remember: “Once a Blacks boy, always a Blacks boy.”

Head Prefect's address: 'Use this time as a chance for reflection'

As we near the mid-point of the 2023 school year, we're pleased to share the following address by our Head Prefect Reuben Calleja.


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