We want to…open up our hearts to one another.” Student participant
Chaplaincy Services Coordinator Jason Wright has delivered Seasons for Growth programs for three years at Hillcrest Christian College in Victoria.
For the first two years, Jason had four secondary students in each Seasons for Growth group however by the third, he had nine students join. The group initially consisted only of boys, but now the school has formed a group for female students. This decision was made intentionally to separate the groups based on gender, allowing the children to feel more comfortable sharing.
“Boys tend to not open up. But if there are girls in the room, they're probably not going to share personal things in their lives, as they did. I’ve been so proud of them these last three years; it has just been amazing. And I'm so grateful, for the students supporting one another. They have opened up and shared how the big changes in their lives have affected them, and how they can support each other, and have healthy coping strategies to deal with the big emotions,” said Jason.
The program was held three times, the first time for students in years nine and ten, the second time for students in years eight to eleven, and the third time for all secondary students from years seven to twelve. At first, the team was unsure if having such a large age range would work, but it turned out to be a great success. The year twelve students played a significant role in leading the groups and mentoring the younger students. They shared their personal experiences and timelines, which proved to be very powerful. The team was hesitant at first, but they were glad they decided to include all secondary students.
“I would definitely run this again,” said Jason. “This year, we sent out a general email of what Seasons for Growth is about to all the parents and if they were interested, they could send us an expression of interest. And as you can imagine, we got a lot of interest.”
During their discussion, the children talked about separation, divorce, and migration. They also shared their experiences of the Covid-19 lockdowns.
“I had a lot of students whose parents were going through separation/divorce or had already. And I had two boys whose dad sadly had passed away. Rather than seeing the students one-on-one, I think it worked well to see them in a group, where they could see other students are going through similar experiences,” Jason reflected.
The Seasons for Growth program supported the children's needs and their overall wellbeing. Being able to see the students in safe, structured, and well-facilitated sessions also allowed Jason to see and support more students, in his role as Chaplain.
Jason said, “It also helped our relationship with parents, even just those initial phone calls explaining what the program's about. We want to continue to partner with the parents as much as we can as a school, it was an extra touch point to let parents know the school doesn't just care about the academics, we care about the whole person and their wellbeing.”
With the support of Companions walking alongside the groups, individuals who have never shared their stories before now have the opportunity to do so in a safe place, which can be both empowering and healing.
The success of the Seasons for Growth program at Hillcrest reminds us that there is always someone to talk to, and it is completely normal to experience emotions and share them with others. It is healthy to seek support, and sharing can be incredibly powerful for students. The school will continue to run the program to support student wellbeing ongoingly.
Photo: Chaplaincy Services Coordinator, Jason Wright enjoys connecting with students through song.