4 Things We Love About Our Boarders – Jennifer Oaten

From Broome to Boyanup, Bridgetown to Busselton, our boarders bring so much to our community.

When Santa Maria College opened its doors in 1938, we had 60 boarders and 13 day students. The College was established to cater for the many country girls wanting an education. The Sisters of Mercy not only taught the students during the day, they cared for them as boarders in the evenings. Since our inception, boarding has been here, and it is a part of who we are.

I have the greatest admiration for our boarders. I have walked in their shoes myself and know that they face many challenges, particularly in these COVID-19 times. But these incredible young women contribute so much to who we are as a community. So what do our boarders bring to our school that is so special?

1. They help others understand the value of community

Country towns rely on community. Everyone helps each other, everyone volunteers and helps in any way they can. Our boarders are heavily involved in the College and all its activities. They tend to be the core of sporting groups in particular. Many of them have played a lot of sports in the country.

Sport is a popular way for connection in many country towns. Not only do they bring their skill and talent to our teams, but they also bring the expectation that everyone will pitch in and help, whether it be umpiring or coaching a younger team. This is how sporting clubs in the country are managed… by the community for the community. Boarders model the importance of doing your bit to support others in the community.

2. They educate us about country life

Boarders are great storytellers. They talk about life on the farm or in their faraway places. They tell stories of driving through paddocks and dealing with stock, shearing, riding their horses and the frustrations of limited internet. This opens the eyes of city kids.

In a girls’ school like Santa Maria, it is good for our city students to spend time with girls who have spent their lives in rural areas doing activities that are not stereotypical. Whether it be driving tractors, riding motorbikes or doing stock work, it is such a valuable experience.

Boarders talk about the seasons, the weather, the different work that is going on in their local areas. All of which help us all appreciate the importance of our farmers and their produce. They also share their love of nature and the great outdoors.

"Boarding students as a whole are important to the Santa Maria community because they bring a unique perspective, great conversations and a whole load of laughs."

3. They demonstrate resilience and bravery

Country families deal with droughts, floods, fires, loss of livestock and yet they always are so optimistic and get on with dealing with the challenges. Country life presents many challenges which our boarders face from the day they are born.

They are generally mature beyond their years and have great problem-solving skills. They develop resilience, strength and bravery through these experiences, and they show us what is possible if we work hard, persevere and support each other. Even their bravery and independence to live away from home is a great example to us all.

"I believe that boarding students are important to the Santa Maria community as they have learned to build deep and meaningful relationships with everyone around them, this is important as it brings everyone closer together"

4. They demonstrate the importance of genuine friendships

Our girls in boarding are like a sisterhood where they look out for each other. In country towns, the older kids look after the younger kids, and everyone knows everyone. Young people from the country are usually good at connecting with all age groups and navigating the ups and downs of friendships.

Our ‘Big Sister’ mentoring program is a great example of how the older boarders develop connections and friendships with the younger boarders and the importance of these relationships.

Boarders place great value on friends and, as a result, often form life-long friendships and form strong networks that they carry with them through their lives. We can all learn the importance of friendships with all age groups from our boarders.

We have so much to gain from our boarders in understanding community, country life, bravery, hard work, and friendships. There is so much to learn from these remarkable girls… encourage your daughters to get to know them. Perhaps you could adopt a boarder some weekends if you haven’t already!

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