Signature Strengths Journey – Nilou Kedemos (Year 11)

Global Citizens – Nilou Kedemos

One of the signature strengths that the whole Kirrawee High School community should embrace and uphold is mutual respect. I remember last year all the leadership teams came together as whole to try and bring our school’s previous rules down to a list of positive words. Words that actually mean something to every student, teacher and parent, and words that inspire us all to make change within ourselves and around us. The 3 words that we came up with were Respect, Resilient and Responsible. Personally, for me, the one that stands out the most is Respect and that is why I’ve chosen to speak about this concept with you today.

I’m really passionate about mutual respect, because I think that without it, the world would be a very different place. Respect needs to be a 2-way thing, and if it’s not then it becomes very hard to cooperate with others and build a strong community. It is also important to understand that there are issues surrounding this, not everyone understands the concept of mutual respect or some may believe they are exempt from it. Everyone comes from different places with different parents, stories, beliefs and cultures. This is fantastic because it means that we’re not all the same and we each have a huge bag of skills and ideas to bring to the table. Every single one of you is unique and has special skills and talents. The only way that we can overcome the fact that we are all so greatly unique and different in this world, is by mutually respecting each other. People have disadvantages, disabilities, differences and diversities. If we can show respect to all those people, then we can insure that we are embracing a common humanity.

I’d like to share a personal story that may allow some of you to understand what I mean by this respect and what happens if it is ignored. I migrated from France to the Sutherland Shire with my family when I was 8 years old. This was a scary experience, I was leaving close family members behind, I was abandoning my friends, my home of many years and my ways of life. I had to move to place where I didn’t speak the language, didn’t understand much and had no friends. I was thrown straight into year 3 and I had no idea how to write and speak English. I felt very unsupported by the students around me and I didn’t feel respected by the teachers as I was shouted at for not understanding and made to feel dumb as I was always singled out. I remember sitting by myself, getting teased and mocked for my accent, being unable to communicate and just being straight up being ignored by the people in my own class. It wasn’t nice to be treated like an outsider, especially when I was so willing and hungry to learn English and make friends.

I really hope that this proves to you all why we desperately need to change this culture. We shouldn’t EVER be treating people in a way to make them feel how I just described. This is an example of what happens when we don’t embrace the differences of others. However, I’ve managed to turn my differences into a positive thing, and it’s taught me to respect others as well. I’ve learned that the only way for people to respect me and share that common humanity was for me to show them the respect I wanted. I’ve used my multiculturalism by contributing to language programs to help students with French, by being involved in Harmony Day every year and contributing to leadership around the school. This is why I’m so passionate about all of us becoming global citizens who embrace a common humanity and uphold mutual respect.

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