“If it is to be, it is up to me”: A Teachers Journey – by Lachlan Heshusius (Peak Coordinator, St. Laurence’s College)
When I graduated from university, I knew the busyness of Brisbane wasn’t for me. I longed for open roads, bushland and the sense of adventure. So, I applied for a teaching position in Mount Isa – the largest town in Queensland’s northwestern frontier. I got the job and literally had to look it up Mount Isa on the map to find out where it was.
This was a big move – for a bunch of reasons. It was my first time out of home. And it was my first time teaching. It was also my first time in a place as remote as Mount Isa. Yep, I was scared.
Fortunately, my partner agreed to follow me. We both made our way into the unknown, relying purely on faith and the idea that ‘everything happens for a reason’ and that it would all work out in the end.
As a teacher, I have always been interested in working with students who are in need of guidance or support. I enjoy working with those who find themselves at a crossroads and I look at ways I can help them make strong choices.
Working with my good friend and colleague Ben Penna at Good Shepherd Catholic College, we found a growing trend of students not wanting to come to school or not seeing a purpose in their education. They had diverse reasons, but there was a common theme – they wanted to belong to something that mattered to them or gave them direction.
Ben and I hatched a plan. We gathered a few of these young men to work as a group fixing some old canoes that belonged to the school. Once the canoes were ready to use, we drove the school bus out to the local lake, went for a paddle, had a barbecue and game of cricket. What we had done was enjoyable and meaning-making.
From that day, we developed a program that worked to assist young men to transform into productive, responsible, young adults. We came up with a list of engaging pastoral activities that challenged students to break down the barriers of poor choices, giving them steps towards building a brighter and more successful future. The PEAK Program was born: Performance, Empowerment, Attitude and Knowledge. These are the four pillars that every young man should aim to build in their character.
Every week we would meet, share a meal, do various activities and, most importantly, share our stories with one another. This was the most important and most valuable learning experience for any young man. This gave me a sense of purpose, and I truly understood why fate had called me to live in the Outback.
After two years of working in Mount Isa, I received an offer to work at the school in which I was a student. This was an offer too good to turn down. I was to return to Brisbane. It might sound like an easy one, but the decision to ‘come home’ was painful, because I really felt like I was leaving my new home in Mount Isa. But again, my faith and belief guided me home with my partner. I started working at St Laurence’s College.
It didn’t take me long to realise that teenage boys really were not too different from school to school. They all wanted to become strong men with strong character. So with the principal’s approval, the PEAK Program was introduced to St Laurence’s College. Over the past three years, I have revisited Mount Isa with my partner and with the SLC PEAK students. Another colleague and good friend, Ben Russell, has seen the program’s vision, and worked alongside me in bringing our ideas and those of the students to reality. The program has helped students to develop into fine young men who have come back after graduation to volunteer their time mentoring younger students. Every week, we gather as a group, perform engaging activities, and share our stories. The program continues to grow and evolve with retreats, workshops, guest speakers, camps and excursions.
I believe in the saying: “If it is to be, it is up to me”. Anything you could want in life starts and ends with you. No one else can do it for you. With this in mind, I attempt to tackle my future goals, knowing that I am on my own personal journey of learning, trying to find my ultimate PEAK.
St Laurence’s College