During the past holiday break, I was fortunate enough to attend an event where Dr Jordan Nyugen was speaking. Jordan has been doing some remarkable work, finding ways to improve the lives of people with severe disabilities with the use of technology.
Jordan’s signature project was the creation of a wheelchair that is controlled by thought. The mobility that this invention has given to people, who were once totally reliant on another, has been profound.
But what struck me the most, and others in the audience, was not the incredible advances Jordan was making with technology, but why he was motivated to do what he is doing.
His mantra is: “One life. Persist to improve many.”
Jordan is living a purpose-filled life.
St Paul’s School exists to create resilient global citizens, who are innovative thinkers with a heart for servant leadership.
An education worth having is not one that imparts knowledge, but one that teaches a person how to use what they know to generate new ideas and solutions that will make a significant impact on others. An education worth having is one that builds people of character who have the skills and motivation to change the lives of others.
As Jordan has discovered, happiness and fulfilment is not found in what you can take, but what you can give. A profoundly wealthy person was once asked, “how much money is enough.” He answered, “just a little more.”
When we chase wealth and possessions, we will never find happiness and contentment. The apostle Paul, for whom our School is named, realised this when he gave up his life of power and position to take on the role of servant for the Gospel. His words are recorded in his letter to the Philippians: “I have learnt to be content in whatever circumstances I am in.”
A few weeks ago, I had a coffee with a recent past student, Kaela. Kaela is studying for a Bachelor of Environment and Society in Melbourne, but was on a search for a cause that she could sink her teeth into.
Kaela said in an email to me, “I am grateful to say that I developed my passion for international/sustainable development and humanitarian work through my studies at St Paul’s, which is now centric to what I am currently studying. It is also ultimately what I have always aspired to dedicate my career to.”
Kaela’s values were shaped by her family and the experiences she had at St Paul’s, particularly the outreach trip to Vanuatu. I was incredibly humbled to listen to her share some of the things she is thinking of doing with her life. At the end of the conversation, she had begun to narrow her thinking to improving the educational outcomes of the youth of the Philippines.
As educators, we have a responsibility for preparing the young people entrusted to our care by their parents, to provide an education worth having. An education worth having is not just about helping a person to attain the best possible OP (or from next year, ATAR), but to help young people make decisions about what they will do with the things they have learnt so they may seek similar purpose-filled lives and journeys as Jordan Nguyen or Kaela have.
As we look at what is happening around us, the impact that technological advances are having on every part of our lives, and the impact the rate of change is having on mental health and resilience, it is more important than ever to deliver an education that will help young people navigate a world that will be vastly different to the one you and I grew up in.
Our world and the people in it are facing increasingly complex problems. What it needs are people with a genuine heart and desire to make a positive difference to find innovative solutions to those problems. I really look forward to hearing about the next chapter in the lives of our graduating students who finished their St Paul’s journey at the end of last week as they find their way, their purpose and their place in the world.
Dr Paul Browning