Remarks by Craig Davis, President and Head of College

(Editor’s Note: Head of College Craig Davis welcomed the entire campus community, plus some families of students, to last month’s leaving ceremony for Year 47 on a sunny and mild afternoon outdoors on the community lawn. We wanted to share his remarks with the worldwide Pearson community.)

This week I was reading the Kurt Hahn quotation in the entranceway to ŦÁ¸WEN House. For those who don’t know, Hahn is the founder of the UWC movement and the line that is often applied to our students during their time at Pearson is:

There is more in you than you think.

As we say a fond farewell to our graduating Year 47 class, they perhaps more than any other cohort before them, have had to draw on their reserves and resilience during — what shall we say — unusual two-year Pearson experience. To recognise and celebrate this journey let us take a tour through your two years at Pearson College UWC.

You started your journey to Pearson in a downtown Victoria hotel following Pearson’s first-ever online “Quarientation” (quarantine + orientation) program that connected each individual student’s hotel room to the faculty and staff they had yet to meet in person. Many of your virtual advisory groups included students from overseas who were unable to make it into Canada as federal international travel and related restrictions slowed the processing of visas until mid-October. In fact, the last of you arrived in person as late as February 2021!

This meant that on campus we had predominantly Canadian students learning with online international students together in virtual classrooms. This unique and different Pearson experience continued — for you, you started with no cross-House mixing outside of classrooms, no dining interactions with any adults, no casual drops-ins to residents’ houses or House Parents’ living rooms, no weekend excursions to Victoria…not even any group bicycle excursions or impromptu hikes!

In addition, we took the bold but necessary step of keeping all students on campus during the three-week Winter Break when most students would usually return home to their respective countries and communities. At this point Pearson College shifted to ”Camp Pearson” as adults and students worked together to create a full program of events and celebrations to create a holiday experience that everyone could enjoy and appreciate.

This is where the mantra, “there is more in you than you think,” applies because in the midst of this challenge we also saw the best of Pearson during the Winter Break – a time many Year 47s told me this week was one of their best memories – the Christmas market in front of ŦÁ¸WEN House, Santa’s grotto, the day trips to Shawnigan Lake ice rink and gym, the huge snowball fight (and no I have not forgiven Shea for nearly knocking me unconscious!) the winter concert, the multiple crafts and activities, the great food and the amazing New Year’s Eve dance night transforming the dining hall into Canada’s only functioning “club experience” during lockdown.

As a group, Year 47 pushed through all of the challenges to create a unique and positive Pearson experience in spite of the COVID backdrop and restrictions

The determination to celebrate our regional performances safely in the Max Bell by staging repeat versions for everyone to enjoy, was a particular highlight. These carried on this year with amazing performances, and I was personally really moved by the 50 or so students we, just a few weeks ago, took to perform for the Canadian Club in Victoria adapting many of the regional day – and in another time, would-be One World routines for the benefit of the “old folks in town.”

Other highlights include the many music concerts organised on the community lawn, the two outstanding House Olympics Tournaments, and the Golden Shoe events both on and off campus — remember it’s the semi-finals and final tomorrow, everyone! I also fondly remember playing for Finland against England in Pearson’s own Euro Football Championship tournament last year. Our wonderful theatre performances and art exhibitions also helped create the necessary campus community experiences that we missed elsewhere. And most recently, the incredible Project Week expeditions and events gave Year 47 enriching, place-based enjoyment ahead of their final examinations

There are many more occasions that I have not mentioned, but want to acknowledge, so we can collectively thank our whole community for the effort, commitment and resilience that has been core to the creation of a rewarding experience for our Year 47s.

I also just want to specifically celebrate with our Year 47 that today’s French exam marked the final IB Diploma paper. Yay! As Damien just said to me today, “you did it guys!” And believe me, you earnt today’s Bay Jump!

Recently, I met with the other UWC Heads in Singapore. We reflected on this year’s graduating class and the amazing positive experiences you have managed to create across the movement during these unusual times. Your leadership and commitment to community wellbeing has been admirable. On our campus, many of you helped to launch our college assembly model of student decision-making — a great example of community endeavour. This work in the service of those that come after you is a mark of a Pearsonite, where paying forward and passing down to future students is an established tradition and expectation.

As I hinted, I also want to recognise this group for the joy you have brought to us — the fun, the music, the laughter, the memes, the hikes, the paddling, the student led clubs, the intense conversations, the campaigns, the bay jumps, the cooking, the camping and the dancing.

A highlight for me last year is this year group’s particular talent for dancing … and one special memory was watching passing boats returning to the marina slowing down to watch hoards of crazy dancing students outdoors on this very community lawn.

Listening to our choir just now also reminded me of the floating carol singing some of you took part in during the on-campus version of Winter Break. The memory of having shouts of gratitude directed from homeowners on the shore at our students was a great example of the spirit of compassion and appreciation we all recognise as central to the UWC experience

This returns us to the opening quotation from Kurt Hahn. Reflecting and meditating on these words is particularly powerful in this of all years. Part of cultivating gratitude requires a full awareness of perspective, a reminder that no matter how intense the inside of campus life has been, there is more “out there than you think!” We often forget how much deep joy is generated by serving others, something I experienced in the “carol canoe.”

This is a key learning in the transition Year 47 students are making into the lifelong membership of Pearson College UWC alumni. We have seen this reflected in the amazing Global Affairs program this year featuring Pearson alumni like Abi Williams and Shauna Amanah reflect back to us the amazing impact Pearsonites can make in the outside world. These individuals are the important reminders of Pearson at its best, translating the privilege of a UWC education into meaningful social change. I look forward to having many of you on screen talking to Year 60 students during a future Global Affairs program!

This is why I firmly believe in Hahn’s “undefeatable spirit,” because there is always more in us than we think.  This is often hard to appreciate this in the “eye of the storm” but I am confident this characteristic will remain with our Year 47 students as they gain a post-Pearson perspective and keep their deep friendships and connections alive in the coming years and decades.

Congratulations to each and everyone one of you for completing your Pearson journey!.