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As it approaches its 50th Jubilee in 2018, Porirua College is going from strength to strength, under the leadership of new Principal Ragne Maxwell. Speaking at Plimmerton Rotary on 29th August, Ms Maxwell enthusiastically outlined her goals for what she clearly regarded as a very special college.

“As you might expect, about 24% of our students are of Maori descent and about 75% are Pasifika. But what you may not know is that most of the rest are the children of Syrian refugees. This diversity presents us with cultural richness and variety.”

Originally from Otago, Ragne’s father was a teacher and her mother lectured at Otago University. “So it was almost inevitable that I would become a teacher as well.” She had taught in the UK, and at a top international school in France. “The school building was shaped like a question mark. Money was no object at that school!”

After returning to NZ Ragne had taught at both colleges on the Kapiti Coast, before being appointed Principal at Porirua in 2016. From the start she had been impressed and humbled by the calibre of students at the college. She had instituted a “Schoolwide Pride Guide” which encouraged all students to be responsible, build positive relationships and become powerful leaders.

Further, all students were encouraged to “become powerful learners, willing and able to use this quality in the service of their communities”.

Sport played a major role in College life. The First Fifteen rugby team competed in the Wellington Region First Division. Their basketball team competed well also. And whereas soccer had been a less popular sport in the past, with the influence of the Syrian students this sport was rapidly advancing. “The ball skills of these Syrian kids are just amazing!”

The college was organised along “house” lines, with all students belonging to one of four houses. “In fact we have taken the house concept to another level, by locating the four houses around a central open space. The houses are designed to be a home away from home for their members, with each house containing kitchen and bathroom facilities.”

Ms Maxwell was passionate about creating innovative learning practices and environments. “Right now my staff and I are engaged in a process of thinking about the most effective ways of teaching. Should teaching be done within the school or outside the school, or a mixture of these? Should it be the traditional classroom model or something else? Everything is on the table.”

Also speaking at the meeting were Porirua College Year 12 students Liza Mascoe and Josiah Gagamoe, who had recently attended a Rotary RYPEN course near Inglewood in Taranaki. RYPEN stands for Rotary Youth Programme of Enrichment. Both Liza and Josiah had benefitted greatly from the programme and expressed their gratitude to Rotary for the opportunity.

For Liza the main learnings were to set meaningful goals, to dream big and work hard, while remaining passionate and positive. Josiah learned to have confidence and not doubt himself, and to not rush into things but to take one step at a time. For both students, an important takeaway from the course was to always stay positive and to stay true to who you really are.

Porirua - no ordinary College

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