Queensland Country Life

Growth journey: How St John's is preparing students for transition to adulthood

Rites of passage: St John's Anglican College students Sahana Sathananthan and Lincoln Maufoe with Head of Middle School Braydon Giles. Picture: Supplied

This is branded content for St John's Anglican College.

Ask year 12 students at St John's Anglican College, as they prepare to head out into the world, about the highlight of their time at the school and the most common answer is likely to be a program called The Rite Journey.

Now in its ninth year as part of the Brisbane school's curriculum for its Year 9 students, The Rite Journey sits at the heart of St John's commitment to preparing its students for life as respectful, responsible, resilient and self-aware adults.

St John's is a leader in the delivery of the program that was created 20 years ago by Australian educator Andrew Lines in response to some of the unique challenges facing today's young people. Today it's being taught in more than 130 schools in four continents to 11,000 students.

Braydon Giles, Head of Middle School at St John's, said the way the school's students embraced the program, and the transformation he saw in them, was "amazing".

"You see a lot of maturity developing over the year," he said. "They know a lot more about who they are, where they fit and the impact they want to have.

"We've given them the opportunity to have more profound and powerful conversations with their friends, with their loved ones. We reinforce the notion of practicing gratitude and respecting themselves as well to give them as many opportunities to grow as individuals.

"You hear all the time at schools that there is a huge focus on academics but at the end of the day you don't want to just produce children who go into society with all the content knowledge in the world and no emotions; you want to equip them with the skills they are going to need for success in whatever area they want to go into. Wellbeing and academics go hand in hand."

In a society that no longer provides a distinct "rite-of-passage" process for young people marking their move into adulthood, The Rite Journey was designed to fill this gap, acknowledging and celebrating that important transition.

At St John's the program includes two, one hour lessons a week, and involves a series of rituals and celebrations, physical and mental challenges, discussions and guidance.

"In today's Western society students don't really have any form of a rite of passage but it's important for them to have these powerful conversations about issues that are impacting them as young adolescents in society," said Mr Giles.

"For the students the program is really a life-changing experience and something that stays with them. At the end of school we talk to the Year 12s about their time here and The Rite Journey is usually the highlight of their experience - particularly the 24-hour solo camp that is part of it."

Life-changing: The Rite Journey program is offered to Year 9 students at St John's with the goal of better preparing them for their lives ahead.

For St John's student Lincoln Maufoe, taking part in The Rite Journey provided skills that will continue to benefit him into the future. In particular, he credits the program with helping him develop closer and stronger relationships with school friends and his family.

It also gave him a greater understanding of himself and what he would like to achieve in his life.

"The Rite Journey has taught me that you don't really know who you are until you've had a really good conversation with the people that are around you, who they are, what they stand for," said the Year 11 student who's been at St John's for his whole school life.

"Every single lesson I learned something new, whether it was about gratitude, about caring for others - it changed my whole mindset and made me think about things I hadn't thought about before."

The ability to communicate better with others is high on the list of benefits for fellow student Sahana Sathananthan who took part in the program last year.

"It's given me many valuable skills especially about being mature and being a person who can really empathise with others, traits that will help me when I get older and go into the workforce and make new friends," she said.

"It's an important program because you don't always get the chance to talk to people your age and have conversations about the things that you would keep inside. It's an opportunity for people to say what they want to say in a safe and trusting environment."

Sahana said the program also equipped her to better cope with some of the challenges facing girls, such as the impact of social media.

"Especially for girls, social media is one of the biggest [challenges]. Everyone is worried about how they look," she said.

"You really learn how irrelevant it is and that there's a point when you need to stop and make sure you're protecting yourself and looking after your mental health."

The program's success at St John's has seen it continue to grow as an important part of the school's mission to nurture and develop its students and prepare them for their lives ahead, Mr Giles said.

"By involving the families in the process and giving students the opportunity to explore complex social issues, The Rite Journey remains a pivotal part of the College's pastoral care program," he said.

St John's Anglican College is a Kindergarten to Year 12 co-educational Christian school with Home Boarding founded in 1994 and located at Forest Lake, Brisbane. Find out more about St John's unique approach to the education and care of its students at its website stjohnsanglicancollege.com.au

This is branded content for St John's Anglican College.