Dear College, old oaks, parents and lastly, class of 2017
I would just like to start off by saying that it is such an honour to stand here today. If you were to predict this for me a couple years ago, I’d definitely laugh at you. For those of you who know me, know that I tend to be more of an introverted person and that I would only open up to you if I was forced to or if I liked you. I am also standing before you today to attempt to at least inspire you for this next voyage; this next stage of your life that you soon will experience.
This make up of my being, to me has changed and evolutionized compared to when I matriculated 3 years ago. 3 years is a short time but long at the same time. Matriculants, you can say the same. And is the point of my talk today.
I am Courtney Yon, I am a final year Humanities student at Stellenbosch University. I currently serve as the Deputy Head mentor at Simonsberg men’s residence. I intend to do my honours in Information Systems Management, I am a sentimentalist but most importantly, I was housed in Cloetenburg, The best house on Somerset College soil. The reason why I’m standing here is because I serve on the Old Oaks Committee in the Giving back portfolio. Something that I would also laugh at you if you predicted this. This brings me to my second point.
I would like talk to you about the lobster. As you may know, a lobster is a crustacean, meaning, it is a spongy, squishy animal that lives inside a hard exoskeleton shell. This rigid does not expand, so in order for the lobster to grow it has to shed its shell at regular intervals throughout its life. As the lobster grows, the shell becomes very confining and the lobster feels itself under pressure and uncomfortable. During the process of shedding, gets rid of the old shell while a new one starts to form on its body, starting as a soft membrane. However, in the time it takes for its new shell to completely harden, the lobster is extremely vulnerable to larger predators and even harsh sea conditions. But if it does not go through this risky process, it wouldn’t be able to grow. Now, the stimulus for the lobster’ s growth is the fact that it feels uncomfortable in its current shell. So then, it can be said that we have to realize that times of stress are also times that are signals for growth. In order to grow, we need get rid of fear of vulnerability and stretch our comfort zone. Therefore, if we use adversity properly we can grow through it. This is my last point.
The Old Oaks Committee involves of past pupils, parents and teachers and they are dedicated to the ongoing relationship with the school, through the Old Oaks. You, like the many before you, are now instantly joined, through the connections and the atmospheres that await you. You, like many before you will come back and I promise you receive a sense of nostalgia. I think it is important to realize the potential of the Old Oaks and how you can still even after school communicate. You can come into contact with Old Oaks who graduated even 10 years before or after you and it is an environment where you are able to still hold onto the relationships you made here. We can’t wait to welcome not only you, but your parents too. There is always something you can do regarding the Old Oaks. Always a place for you to contribute and use whatever the environment you find yourself in.
I just want to share one more biological fact which is quite profound, as I feel like we can learn a lot from nature. It is a concept called rewilding. Rewilding is the reintroduction of a support plant or animal species or apex predator into a habitat from which it has disappeared, to restore the health of an ecosystem. Wolves were the key to one of the best known examples of rewilding. In 1995 wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the US after they had been wiped out by hunters in the 1920s. In the absence of these large predators, deer populations had multiplied out of control causing major overgrazing of the land’s vegetation. The effects of placing only 41 wolves back into the ecosystem did more than just control the deer population. The remaining deer started to move around more often as they were now always on their guard. This then allowed vegetation to grow, which in turn allowed beavers and birds to move in, the beavers’ dams allowed for the habitation of more aquatic life. Even the river patterns in the park changed as the vegetation stabilized the river banks, which decreased erosion and the positive affects go on and on. Yellow Stone is now thriving just because of 41 wolves.
To the class of 2017, the Old Oaks trusts that you will enjoy the last stretch of your high school career. We know that with the Academic support and the foundations that you have, you walk away here knowing that you made, not only your parents, friends or College proud, but you made yourself proud. We wish you the best with your future and do not be shy to come back and say hi. To end off, I would like to further encourage you. Over time you will change and it is important that you embrace it. You will question who you are, and I promise you if you’re going to University you will definitely think of this a lot. Perhaps it is important, like wolves, to realize that each and every one of us plays an important role in life. What is also important, in my opinion, is that you do not have to know the direct path or destination in life because in my experience your ambitions are always changing and life is not straight forward. However, there needs to be something that drives you from within, a something that you believe and that you do not mind being challenged on. Like the lobster, take risks and get out of your comfort zone. Lastly, do not be afraid of the future and don’t focus too much on it either because what you do now is what affects your future.
Ladies and gentlemen, we need to realize that we all have a purpose in this world. No matter how weird or small, the impact will be greater than you can ever imagine. But there is one thing that still remains ” The strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack”.