Prize Day Woldingham School speaker encourages students to “find your own voice”

Prize Day Woldingham School speaker encourages students to “find your own voice”

31 May 2022

It was a great pleasure to welcome Lucy Hawking as Woldingham School’s guest speaker at Prize Day on Saturday 28 May. Lucy is the creator of the George Greenby books, a series of adventure stories which use dramatic story telling to explain complex science to young readers. As Dr James Whitehead said in his address, with more than 30% of last year’s leavers going on to study STEM subjects at university, and many others reading humanities, Lucy was a perfect fit for Woldingham.

Lucy was of the same opinion, explaining that #WriteYourOwnStory, Woldingham’s description of what is special and different about a Woldingham education, also sums up her experience of life. As daughter of the late, great theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, she had a hard act to follow. In fact two, as her mother wrote the book on which the film “The Theory of Everything”, a drama about Stephen Hawking’s life, was based. Amusingly, Lucy shared her disappointment on discovering that her appearance in the film, played by an actress, was a non-speaking part. Poignantly, she explained that this made her feel reduced to a cipher.

Fortunately for Lucy, at a difficult time in her life, her father’s answer to a child’s question gave her the inspiration for her future career. The question: “What would happen if I fell into a black hole?” The answer: “You would turn into spaghetti.” Her idea of using the creativity of storytelling to explain to children scientific concepts that might otherwise remain a mystery was born.

Lucy’s message to Woldingham students was that you too can find your own voice, even if you are facing huge challenges. Evaluate your life and look at what has meaning for you and you may go places you can’t even imagine right now. She warned against falling into the easy trap of perpetual competitiveness and a desire to get ahead of others. If you do, “you may never find out what your own amazing contribution is.”

After Lucy’s very warmly-received speech, she presented the prizes, cups and awards which celebrated Woldingham students’ many achievements this year.

Some of the wonderful extra-curricular achievements were showcased in the marquee: a chance for an even larger audience to see excerpts from last term’s mesmerising Lower Sixth production of Emilia; a lovely performance from new Music Ribbon Joyce, who sang Old Sir Faulk by William Walton, and a final Woldingham performance by outgoing Music Ribbon, and superb flautist, Leila, whose rendition of Csárdás by Vittorio Monti almost ‘brought the marquee down’.

Excellent speeches from Mr Robert Parkinson, Chair of Governors, and Dr James Whitehead, Head highlighted Woldingham’s key achievements and plans; record student numbers, campus development, STEM success and welcoming students from Ukraine – guided by Woldingham’s Sacred Heart values.

Just before communal singing of Jerusalem closed proceedings, Head Girl 2020-2021 Desiree made her last address to the Woldingham community, offering wise words to her fellow students. “Desi’s dos and don’ts” came from the heart and were based on her personal experience over the past seven years. “Don’t waste opportunities,” was her key message and one that she has learnt to live by. Instead, think “I could do that – I could try.” This has served Desi very well. As she explained, “I am happy leaving here knowing I gave the valley my all.”

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