We're lucky enough to live within walking distance of a great public school.
Samuel and Oliver both started preschool there, and Samuel completed year 8 there in 2009.
Samuel didn't always like school, especially in year 5 and 6, I think partly because he was a little overweight at that point, and felt uncomfortable.
But when he got to high school, after the initial settling-in/finding his feet, he actually started to blossom. By year 8 he was getting good reports and good grades, and the teachers always spoke highly of him. Many of them came to his funeral as well.
The principal of the school came to see us not long after Samuel's funeral (she had been overseas at the time), and was able to lead the school staff through their talks to the other students as well as notifying the school community. She also brought us a couple of old yearbooks that had photos of Sam in them. Another teacher went out of his way to find photos of Sam (taken at camps etc) and put them on discs for us. We were blown away by the kindness and support we received from the school. Even the P&C helped us with organising back-to-school stuff for Oliver.
I have been in semi-regular contact with the year 9 coordinator, who was also Samuel's science teacher (and his favourite). She has been talking to the students at the school about what they would like to do to honour Sam's memory. Because he died in the holidays (4 days after term 4 ended), some of the students didn't know, and others hadn't had a chance to talk it through with each other, so she has been guiding them through those conversations.
The students were sure that they wanted to have some kind of memorial for Sam, and recently she sent me an email telling me about the meeting she had had with them.
The kids had some interesting ideas: They wanted to hold a carnival in Samuel's honour, to make wrist bands etc...she said they went a little crazy and she had to bring them down again, but eventually they came up with some ideas.
The school is going to dedicate a page to Samuel in this year's yearbook, with the kids contributing some photos and quotes. As I've said before, he was pretty popular, so it's kind of fitting that the kids thought to do this for him.
The kids really wanted to make a 'documentary' about Sam: interviewing people and including some funny memories and reflections about Sam. I thought this was a very nice idea!
Right at the beginning, we asked the principal if we could contribute to an award in Sam's name.
We offered to cover any costs and provide a 'prize' for the student who ran it. When they talked to the kids about it, they loved the idea, and want the award to be along the lines of 'happiest student of the year', as that was the way they saw Sam. We thought it was a very nice idea. The year 10 students will nominate one of their peers, and the award will be judged by a panel including some of Samuel's friends (and perhaps one of us).
They also wanted to paint one of the music room doors orange, because orange is Sam's favourite colour, and because he spent a lot of time in the music room.
The Lemon Tree
This one is my favourite. Samuel used to think he was very cool when he could eat a whole lemon. I didn't think much of it at the time (just a kid showing off), but it must have been something he made a big deal about at school, because the kids were very keen to give the award recipient a lemon tree. To me, this shows how much impact Samuel had on people's lives, because it's a memory that has stuck with many of them.
We thought that it might not be the best idea to give someone a tree, as they might not be able to look after it. We told the teacher that, and after she spoke to the kids they agreed, but did not want to let the lemon tree idea go. So instead, they are going to plant one out the front of the school and create a bit of a memorial garden for Sam. What a lovely idea.
We have ordered some lemon trees from Diggers, and hopefully will get the chance to help them plant them.
As for the award prize, we will donate a JB Hifi voucher (because of Sam's love of music and video games), and a Goodberry's voucher (because he loved Goodberry's). I think that will go down well.
Writing it down here, it seems like a lot. But from what I can tell, the kids are pretty determined! I told the teacher I was concerned that we were stringing the whole thing out too much, that they might be better off not having it in their face all the time, but she said that 'they're not going to let him go that easy'.
So it's all very nice. Once again, reaffirming my belief that all teens aren't so bad. And that I chose the right school. Thanks to all of you.