Ten years of Being draw to a close. Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti* grew from a visionary dream - grown out of need, shared goals and determination - to provide an alternative to mainstream schooling. Although the school's city site is now cleared land, the premises of its pre-cursor primary school, Discovery 1, are still visible at the top of an old, re-developed department store.
Both schools have been operating from sites outside of the central city since the Feb 2011 earthquake. Ministry of Education reforms announced earlier this year for Christchurch schools declared that the two schools would merge next year. Although the reforms have been unwelcome for many school communities, the merger of Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti with Discovery 1 is a desirable progression, with many children moving through both schools, and families carrying through the qualities and understanding developed at primary school level for the benefit of the secondary school.
A large group of current and past pupils, staff and families gathered yesterday to mark ten year's of Unlimited's success as well as the end of its secondary school identity. We gathered under the big plane tree, which used to serve as an evacuation muster point for fire alarms and earthquake drills.
There were memories shared of great education ...
and the Earthquake itself.
There were speeches from students past and present, Board of Trustees representatives and the incoming Director of the new Area school. It was touching that Steven chose to speak as a past Learning Advisor (teacher) rather than as Director of a school that doesn't yet exist.
There was a cake - cut by some of the Foundation Forty students: the school opened in 2003 with just 40 students.
A sprig of rosemary sat next to the cake, a poignant reminder of the loss of Life, that has threaded through the last ten years - too much of it tragic, though none from the great Earthquake. Remembering the deaths brought to mind the strength of this school community at dealing with loss; how the whole school marshals to support families through shock, funerals and grieving.
And whenever we gather there is always kai. Food!
Listening to the speeches and informal conversation I noticed that although everyone had a personal story to tell, there was a strong sense of shared experience, and a layering over the years, of people with common goals. I can't believe that as Bryony graduates from Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti in a few days time,
I am lucky to be able to move with Kitty into the exciting next phase of student lead education and participate as the new school, with a new name, moves back into a vibrant recovering city.
*Paenga Tawhiti can be translated as distant or boundless horizons.