Tragedy binds school clan

Churchlands Senior High School chaplains Susan Smith and Andrew Winton.
Churchlands Senior High School chaplains Susan Smith and Andrew Winton.

‘When a community gets an experience of undeniable life, it changes the conversation in the corridors,’ Mr Winton said.

Earlier this year, Year 12 students Preston Bridge (16) and Joshua Zinni-Forbes (17) died in tragic accidents within one month of each other.

Mr Winton, who has been at the school since 2005, said Churchlands SHS had experienced some major tragic events over the years and the students’ deaths had connected the community, with current and ex-students, staff and local residents coming together to support each other.

‘A school only has a certain amount of things that happens in its lifetime, marks in the sand where you can see the community changed,’ he said.

‘Some people who I’ve never talked to or connected with the whole time I’ve been here, that was the moment for them where they did commit.’

Former Shenton College chaplain Susan Smith started working at Churchlands SHS at the beginning of Term 2 and said as an outsider, the school’s spirit appeared to have strengthened.

‘It is a very close, supportive community and it’s possibly closer since then,’ Ms Smith said. ‘I don’t think that’s necessarily changed because it’s always been there; that safety net.’

Ms Smith said schools were busy places and she wanted to help students face the unique challenges of the early 21st century such as social networking, mental health issues and the pressure to achieve.

‘I often say I don’t know that anything I’ve ever suggested to a student makes a difference but what’s really made the difference is coming alongside them and listening to them,’ she said.