The Brotherhood Initiative was developed to ensure that all students at Marist College Ashgrove had the opportunity to feel socially connected during remote learning. We knew that many of the boys would be proficient at organising their own social contact with friends/peers via zoom, house party and online game tournaments. However, for some, this would prove challenging and they may not have been having regular interactions with others while at home. This could be for a number of reasons but could include: boys who had recent disagreements with their friendship groups, boys who don’t have a developed social group as yet, boys new to the school in Term 1 or boys who are reluctant to initiate conversations with others.
We enlisted the help of our Year 12 Leaders and asked them to become ‘brothers’ to their peers. This would involve weekly video conversations with the purpose of building relationships and creating a feeling of connectedness with the school. We had a very positive response from the families and it proved beneficial for not only the younger boys but the senior leaders who felt a real sense of pride in supporting their peers.
College Vice Captain (Cultural), Dom Malt shared, “the simple act of solidarity – interacting with these younger students not as the College leaders but as friends and equals – is the greatest strength of the program.”
The Brotherhood Initiative supporting younger students
During learning at home this initiative supported 30 boys from Marist and as one mother explains, “my son had a call last week and it brightened his whole week. I knew he was missing the company of the boys from school, but I didn’t realise how much until this video chat.”
Another mother explained that the initiative had made a massive difference for her son, beyond COVID-19 and at-home learning. “The Brotherhood Initiative has been a game-changer for my son. He was withdrawn, depressed and isolated, but after participating, he has become a different boy. Just having someone to reach out to, to share ordinary, everyday conversations, has given him a sense of belonging and self-worth. His ‘big brother’ has made him feel human, to feel valued and no longer alone. I honestly don’t know where we would be without the program.”
The Year 12 Leaders at Marist are very motivated to continue to ensure all boys feel connected to their community and peers, as they return to school. The students are looking for an opportunity to extend the initiative, perhaps embedding it in the College’s Pastoral Care Program and inviting other Year 12 students to become involved as ‘brothers’.
Leaders play a meaningful role through the Brotherhood Initiative
College Vice Captain (Academic), Lucas Kozlovskis said, “while this initiative is something that was founded as a response to the pandemic, its use and benefits will certainly seep into the cracks of everyday school life. I am extremely confident and motivated to grow this into something much larger for the years to come.”
For many Year 12 Leaders, this initiative was also personally meaningful. Many reflected on how they felt like a new or younger student at the college still finding their place in the community and how daunting this was. College Captain, James Clarke explained, “I remember all too well, in my early years at the College, I was a very shy, awkward and passive kid who struggled to fit in. Being able to personally get to know a boy who I see myself in is something that connects with me deeply.
I, as well as many other 2020 graduates, understand how daunting entering a new school is and I want to do everything that I can to ensure that these younger boys feel welcome, accepted and cared for.”
This is a great initiative, developed by young men which recognises the importance of mental health and wellbeing and the big difference, small gestures can make. We are very proud of our leaders who have shown that small acts of kindness can really go a long way.