“What does it mean to be an Old Girtonian”

“Under the Peppercorn Tree” OGA Exclusive
Henry Ngo (Alumnus 2008 Frew)
February 2009


To JR; “Write with a voice…”

A name. What is it? Is it possible to describe emotion and personality through just a name. A Girtonian. Distinguished, esteemed and renowned. To some yes; but to others bratty, spoilt and snobby. Fortunately, it takes more than a few words to describe this name.

I sit here in front of a bar at a casino in Macau and think about the names that I have been called and referred to. Coach, Captain, Prefect, leader… not yet. Better yet, I should be thinking about what drink to order, or why my holiday is ending in two days. I look around and realise that the dream-to-reality holiday trip was directly affected by my actions at School. For my work, my teachers are proud of me. For my service, my School is proud of me. And for my achievements, my parents are proud of me. My parents were willing to let me go and fund part of the way because of the things I had achieved at Girton such as The Old Girtonians’ Association Scholarship and I thank them and the Association for this.

I am proud of my names from Girton; a basketballer, a technician, a designer, a musician. I am especially proud of this one… a Frewian. These names mean more to me than Prefect  or Captain because they represent the hardship that not only I went through, but what all students go through. Basketball has taught me to work efficiently with others; being a Theatre Technician has shown me that hard work is not always acknowledged; being a designer has proved to me that you must do what you are passionate about; and being a musician has worked my brain like I never thought anything could.

So I am asked what makes me proud to be a Girtonian, and my answer is this. The names. More so, the opportunities available to achieve these names. The School allows any student of any ability to perform to the best and better than his or her potential; and this is one of the reasons why I was enrolled at Girton. Since we first walk through the gates of this School we are not only taught it, but exposed to the methods of leadership development. Whether it is through the activities and subjects mentioned or peer leading programs such as Peer Support and Captaincy, we are first led by capable and experienced leaders. Then we ourselves develop into those leaders; a process that I believe all good leaders go through – one must be able to follow before they can lead. I was given the opportunity to work my way up from the bottom: from basketball player to coach to Captain, from theatre technician to Stage Manager, from Year Seven to Year Twelve, and through the various stages I was able to gather the knowledge needed to build better people. I am proud to be a Girtonian because not only have I developed the skills needed to get into the workforce but to live a happier, more successful life also.

In arenas and on stages, students wear the School’s Colours with honour and dignity. I saw it in the eyes of my players when I coached them, I felt it in the air when I played along-side them. It is a warm feeling of teamwork and unity; all fighting and striving toward a common goal. I think this is the reason why Girton is ranked highly in all sporting and academic fields; its students are proud to represent it, and I am proud to be amongst its Alumni.

Many people have left the bar now, and I’m still sitting here thinking and reminiscing. I guess that when you get to the end you start thinking about the beginning. I started as a shy and quiet thirteen-year-old and finished as a confident and popular eighteen-year-old. With thanks to my teachers, my parents, my peers and my Headmaster; I was able to develop some names and gain a name for myself. Being a Girtonian meant that I could create a better future, it meant I could become a self-possessed and inspired adult, and it meant that I could be with my best friend. I am asked what I regret from the time I have been at the School, I do not answer but instead I reply with what I am proud of. I am proud of the opportunities given to me, I am proud of the amount of care that we give to each other, I am proud to have worked for and along-side great leaders, and I am proud that I myself have become something better. These are the words to fully describe a Girtonian.

“Proud the banner waving o’er us…”


Postscipt:  Henry has enrolled in a Design / Business course at Swinburne University of Technology, Prahran.  We wish him well in his studies.  He has put his Scholarship  to good use, using part of the funds towards rental whilst studying in Melbourne and the balance to be donated to the Red Cross Bush Fire Appeal.