Love and respect are two of the greatest things one can experience in life, and both are an important part of the education at Villa Maria College. This is what the 2017 Head Girl, Berith Petaia believes. Berith leaves the school with the fondest of memories, ready to tackle a Law and Criminology Degree at Canterbury University in 2018.
From one of her earliest team bonding experiences – Year 10 Camp at Boyle River, Berith says the team spirit at Villa has always been tangible. “It was one of those experiences that you dread, but once it’s done, you kind of are amazed at how you managed to survive an experience you thought would be horrific. It was a highlight for me because it was the first time that I got to see what team spirit was like at Villa and ultimately what type of people I was going to be around for the next three years.
“This team spirit looked like sitting round the fire at outcamp jamming some old-school tunes, pulling each other out of the quick-mud pools on the way down from the hike, and cheering each other on as we took the ‘leap of faith’ into the depths of the river. As tough as it was getting eaten alive by the mozzies, the laughter, fun and the friendships that were formed those few short days have definitely shaped my experience at Villa.”
A great believer in the philosophy that you get out what you put in, Berith credits the teachers and students’ attitudes for an atmosphere at Villa that encourages the pursuit of knowledge and joy of learning. “If a teacher puts in the hard yards and creates an atmosphere that excites the curious mind and educates, then in my eyes, they are doing their job. Students are also a key element to balancing the equation.”
And her advice for the new students beginning in 2018? “Try your best, as cliché as it seems, get involved in school life, and don’t be too cool for school because so long as you wear that uniform, everyone still sees you as a kid, so enjoy it! Step away from the phone and computer and being focused on being perfect all the time and have fun. A rather extraordinary PE teacher once told me that and it has been the best piece of advice ever.”
Berith’s other sage advice – that people from all walks of life can benefit from – is to embrace and uphold the important Mercy values of respect and service. “I am a New-Zealand born Samoan, and at the core of being Samoan, is the importance of respect, ‘fa’aaloalo’, and service, ‘tautua’. These are two qualities that my grandmother and parents ingrained in my siblings and I growing up. Please, no matter how successful you become, never forget that it is okay to be a good person.
“Regardless of what you look like, where you come from, your privilege or lack of, respect the dignity of others, check yourself and how you’re living, because the greatest thing a human can do is have love and hope.”