Humans are Social Creatures – Building Community at Santa Maria College – Jennifer Oaten
Humans are social creatures, and we thrive on social connections. Being part of a community provides us with a sense of belonging and a support system. Communities give us a sense of identity and help us understand who we are and where we fit in the world. They also enable us to work together to achieve common goals and overcome challenges.
Throughout our lives, we are part of many communities beginning with our families, friendship groups, sporting teams, faith groups, charities, book clubs and fitness groups, to name a few. Many aspects of our lives are based on our belonging and familiarity with a group of people with whom we are comfortable and share similar interests. Humans rarely live solitary lives, mostly preferring the company of others.
This sense of belonging is one of the great benefits of being part of our Santa Maria College Community. Parents are the prime educators of their children, so their connection and commitment to our community is crucial for our success. As a school, our core business is education, but to enable us to be effective as educators, we need to partner with parents. We want our parents to be engaged with our priorities, be involved in their daughter’s learning and be part of our community.
Community Activation is a pillar in our Strategic Plan at Santa Maria College which aims to build connections with parents, alumni and the wider community.
Our Parents are important to us because they are able to:
- Partner with staff to better support students’ academic and social-emotional outcomes.
- Promote the value of learning and the opportunities on offer for students.
- Form strong relationships with staff, which can lead to better communication and understanding of each other’s needs.
- Provide valuable feedback and insight, helping us to make informed decisions.
- Contribute valuable resources such as time, expertise, money or goods to help our own or the wider community.
- Advocate for who we are and what we offer for both students and parents.
- Build connections to support each during the sometimes challenging teenage years, which reinforces the work of the College.
While in high school, many students would prefer to hold their parents at a distance. This is, in fact, one of the most crucial times for parents to be close by to guide, mentor and put boundaries in place to keep young people safe. Research also indicates the engagement of parents in their school community is closely linked to their child’s academic success
Santa Maria College is proud to offer a range of opportunities for parents to engage with our school community through activities designed to enrich and build our parent community. Our goal is to engage as many people from within our community as possible. We know that not all people want or are able to attend events, so with our goal in mind, we are constantly creating and trialling new initiatives.
Some of the opportunities available to parents are:
- Parent Information Evenings – enables parents to meet and connect with their Dean of Year and provides an overview of academic information for the year group. Refreshments are provided and allow parents to meet other families in their daughter’s year group.
- Parent Teacher Interviews – enable parents to meet one-on-one with teachers or via a phone call to support each other in the growth of our students. These learning conversations can maximise the success of each student.
- Webinars – presented by College staff provide information and guidance on a number of parenting issues, such as managing your daughter’s anxiety and body image.
- Opening Mass – provides a beautiful way for families, staff and students to celebrate Mass together at the commencement of each year.
- Mass – held each Friday in our Chapel commencing at 8.00 am, and Rosary, held each Thursday at 8.15 am, offer opportunities for House groups and year groups to commence the day with a faith experience as a community. Parents are always most welcome.
- Mother’s Day and Father’s Day Masses are also opportunities to welcome mums, dads and special friends to our community.
- Parent Sundowner – a key opportunity for connecting with parents within year groups and parents from the whole school community. This year 600 parents attended, and a strong sense of community was evident.
- Kindness Challenge – last year, we introduced an online program designed to help parents lead by example. The challenge encouraged parents to demonstrate kindness in their everyday lives, setting an example for their children. What was unexpected was that the challenge also created a safe space for introverts to connect with others.
- Men of Santa and Women of Santa events – Our Men of Santa and Women of Santa group events occur once per term in Terms 1 – 3. These evenings bring even more meaningful opportunities for connection with parents. The evening includes a 20-minute presentation from various presenters during the evening on relatable topics. This, coupled with the social interaction between parents, helps build community.
- Parent Connect Café – A welcoming coffee offered to parents in year groups on the Terrace under the jacaranda tree. This relaxed catch-up has been very well received as it provides another avenue for parents to meet other parents in their daughter’s year group.
- College Advisory Council is a group of parents who advise and support the College Executive Team on strategic matters.
- Parent Council are responsible for key parent groups (Parent Connect, Men of Santa and Santa Ministry/Assist) and the allocation of funds from the levy paid by parents. Parent Council works closely with our Director of Community Relations to create opportunities for parents to interact, contribute and belong to the extended Santa Maria Community.
- Santa Assist helps College families in times of need. This support is usually in the form of meals; however, other assistance is offered when needed. Communication is sent out, and within minutes, we have wonderful families who offer to provide a range of meals. We are so grateful to the many families who assist us in such a generous way.
- Capes4Kids – a sewing project to provide 350 superhero capes for those in need. Funds were raised to cover the cost of materials, and 70 parents and grandparents volunteered their time and expertise to make it happen. This same spirit inspired the Mercy Day 1000 Yellow McAuley Roses event, a fundraising effort where parents purchased roses, and all proceeds went to support Mercy Care. More of these types of opportunities will be offered in 2023.
- Catering Helpers – Parents who wish to extend a hand of hospitality can do so by registering to be part of our Parent Catering Team. The Parent Catering Team help with tea and coffee service at our College functions. It is also a wonderful way to build a community of service to others, and all contributions are gratefully appreciated.
At Santa Maria College, we believe that community activation is key to the success of our school. By creating various ways for everyone to get involved, be it through events, service, volunteering, or online initiatives, we are providing our community members with different ways to feel a sense of belonging and connection. We are proud to be contributing to our community and look forward to continuing to build relationships between our staff and parents.
Together, we are creating a strong sense of community that will continue to thrive for our students’ benefit now and in the future.