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LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING - Toogoolawa Schools
Stories from the real Education Revolution
-   Extract 2

plant1This extract is an address one Toogoolawa student gave the Benevolence Group (who have been very supportive of The Toogoolawa Schools) at the Hyatt Hotel in Sanctuary Cove. Although he had never even held a microphone his address drew a standing ovation.

We have included this extract because Jonah (not his real name and not his image below) captures the essence of what Toogoolawa is about because he has witnessed - from the inside - his own radical transformation.


Hello, everyone. My name is Jonah and I am 15 years old.

I started attending the Toogoolawa School at Ormeau more than two years ago. Most of the boys who come to Toogoolawa have histories of being violent, bullying, behaving badly and wagging school. I wasn’t like this. Instead, I was the boy who couldn’t cope with High School. There were too many kids, too many classes, and it was really hard for me to form relationships and find support. I often felt like I had no one to turn to.

I have always been a nervous person. I suffer from anxiety and sometimes I feel so scared that I get abusive and hit out. I don’t mean to hurt anyone, ever. But I get so frightened by things that happen that I just don’t cope well.

In a lot of ways, I am very different from many of the boys who come to Toogoolawa. But at the same time, I am also very similar to them. We are all similar because we all want the same things. We want to love, and to be loved. And we want to be able to cope with whatever comes our way.

The boys who come to Toogoolawa are just scared. Things might not be too good at home. Or they aren’t coping with school work too well. Or they don’t feel popular or like themselves much. It’s all just fear stuff. But at Toogoolawa we are taught to be loving in everything we think, say and do. We are taught to be brave when we are scared, and to treat everything in a positive, loving way. We are taught to own our fears, and to see that they serve us no good. We are taught to understand that we are good people who have much to offer the world. And that our whole lives are ahead of us.student1

Before Toogoolawa, I didn’t think much of myself. I didn’t feel comfortable being around people, and there was no way that I would stand up here in front of you all and speak out loud. If you could have seen me before, you would understand how amazing it is for me to be doing this today. Toogoolawa changes lives. In my time at school I have seen many boys come and go. Some only need to stay for a little while. Others, like me, choose to stay longer. Because the school is small, we all become great mates. Most of the kids at school have never had good mates before.

The school is a nice place. You feel safe there. Everybody cares for one another and a lot of work is done on our behaviour. We are shown how to make good choices and we are still loved when we stumble and make mistakes. No one wags school at Toogoolawa. We all love coming to school and never stay away. We go on great camps; we are studying to get our Year 10 Certificate; we work at St Vincent de Paul’s feeding homeless men; we are now learning to stand up on surfboards. And we are learning to trust that the world is a good place.

Every day, we are learning to choose love over fear, peace over unrest, non-violence over violence, truth over lies and right action over not-so-right action. Every day, we are shown and re-shown how to choose love over fear. We walk away knowing that there’s only two ways of behaving.

I don’t like to think what may have happened to me, had I not come to Toogoolawa. I feel really blessed that I have been given this school and this opportunity to shine. I feel so happy within myself now. I am popular. I am a student leader. I was given an award last year for my Maths ability. I feel excited about my future and I feel able to cope.

The other boys at school didn’t come to Toogoolawa for the same reasons as me. Many of them were school bullies or committed violent acts. They are my best mates now – and are such nice people. We are like a family and it is a safe place for us to grow and learn.

I wish for you all to go in Peace. And I thank you very much for listening to me today.