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It’s all Zoom, not gloom, for alumnae!

Yesterday, Dr Scott hosted a reunion with a difference: a virtual White and Blue Afternoon Tea via Zoom – complete with Melting Moments, teabags and a Wenona tea towel – for alumnae who left the School in 1980 or earlier.

Celebrating your 40-year-plus school reunion is an important milestone for anyone, so the restrictions imposed by a global pandemic were not going to prevent the School or our alumnae from marking the occasion. Yesterday’s virtual White and Blue Afternoon Tea hosted by Dr Scott, was an opportunity for more than 80 of our alumnae to celebrate the close, lifelong friendships most of them first forged here at Wenona more than four decades ago. Being together – albeit virtually – was a chance for them to reminisce about their shared experiences and precious memories, as well as find out what the School has been up to this year.

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Alumnae ‘Zoomed’ in from their homes as far afield as North Freemantle in Western Australia, Aldinga in South Australia and Noosa in Queensland, as well as from Mosman, Northbridge, Willoughby, Avalon and Manly. There were also two male alumni, Mr Robert Peel (1952PY) and Mr Alex Dey (1965PY) in attendance, from the days when Wenona wasn’t exclusively all-girls. After welcoming everyone, Dr Scott spoke about some of the challenges and opportunities that Wenona has faced in 2020, including the transition to online learning when the School was forced to close due to COVID-19.

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Much to the delight of our alumnae, Dr Scott gave them a photographic tour of Wenona’s new teaching and learning facilities, The Athenaeum, showing them its pool, Science labs and Cardio Gym.

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They were particularly thrilled excited to see archival photos of Wenona from their schooldays, complete with images of the much-loved tennis courts - the focal point of so many of their lunchtimes. They couldn’t believe the School’s transformation, with its central garden area and café, Woodstock, the library space, and all the beautiful gardens that surround the School.

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The photos prompted memories of fun times and shared experiences. The challenge of running in the Sports Carnival in a long Sports tunic. The speckled uniform that was too cold in winter, but too hot in summer. The compulsory bottle of milk that sat in the sun and always tasted off. The bloomers that were a great hiding place for contraband. The fire drills when Matron checked whether you were wearing grey underwear. And the fire drill when boarders had to climb through the upper windows of Ralston House and sit on the roof to be rescued by the fire brigade.

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Director of Foundation and Community Engagement, Mrs Sonia Brennan spoke about the importance of connection, in what has been a challenging year for so many in our community. “Wenona is much more than a School. It is a community of people bound together by shared values and experiences. We are so grateful to you for your grace, kindness and dignity throughout, what has been a particularly difficult year. We know it’s been hard for you, particularly with the cancellation of cherished events and activities, but we have really appreciated your ongoing understanding, as well as your support and commitment to the School. Your spirit of service continues to enrich all our lives.”

Mrs Brennan also spoke about Project Connect, which was a way for our younger students to connect with older alumnae and find out about their schooldays at Wenona.

As she said, “During this strange time of COVID-19, with so many face-to-face events postponed or cancelled, it has been more important than ever to reach out in other ways to connect and check in with people. When calling alumnae to check in with them this year, I heard so many interesting stories about their schooldays at Wenona and the lasting friendships they made here. It prompted me to think about how we could find a way of sharing these stories with our current students and in doing so, forge personal connections between our young people and our older alumnae. And so, Project Connect was born.”

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Another highlight of the event was the Project Connect film that Mrs Brennan played, featuring some of our Year 2 students writing their letters to alumnae. It was wonderful to see the students’ excitement when they received a letter back. As the film showed, Project Connect has been a chance for students and alumnae to have meaningful contact with each other at a time when physical school reunions and get-togethers with old school friends have not been possible. For the students, it has also been an incredible privilege to find out what Wenona was like in the past and what had changed over time.

It was wonderful to see that Wenona is still lodged so vividly in the imaginations of our alumnae. Even though they could not physically join us at the School, there was a fantastic sense of celebration and community via Zoom. Conversations and appearances might have changed since School, but it is heartening to see that relationships have endured.

A huge thank you to Dr Scott for hosting and Mrs Sonia Brennan and Mrs Maryanne Lang for all their organisation leading up to the event – especially the Melting Moments, which were a big hit with everyone. And thank you to our alumnae who hold a very special place in our hearts.