Star Wars character Darth Vader will be on stage in Cobram Barooga this week as Cobram Secondary College hosts Hollywood star Spencer Wilding for a three-day visit, starting today.
Following a full program of events at the school, the visit will culminate in a gala ball on Friday night at Bridges Cobram Barooga Golf Club.
College principal John Sciacca said the college was ready for the famous actor’s visit.
‘‘We are really fortunate to have Spencer coming,’’ Mr Sciacca said.
‘‘Cobram Secondary College prides itself on being able to bring the world into the classroom.
‘‘What I see happening is for our students to be exposed to an actor who’s been involved in lots of different films, and the opportunity is here for our students, and the Cobram community, to hear the story, to hear how he had his dreams, and how he was able, with a few lucky breaks, to make it all happen.
‘‘I suppose it brings up that question — why not me?
‘‘Why can’t I do what I want to do? That’s what it’s really all about.’’
Mr Sciacca said it had been a very busy time as the school made elaborate preparations for the high-profile visit.
‘‘We’ve got amazing staff — they just make things happen. It really is a team effort.
‘‘At the end of the day, I am just in awe — this all came about from a conversation in the corridor.’’
Mr Sciacca said he spoke with the school’s integration co-ordinator, Anne-Marie Hindle, and learned that she had personal contact with Spencer Wilding in the United Kingdom.
‘‘And here he is,’’ he said.
‘‘I am looking forward to the gala ball on Friday night and I will be attending all the different activities.’’
English teacher Penny Jones said Cobram Secondary College had a huge focus on building literacy among its students, specifically working with vocabulary development and reading comprehension.
‘‘Our Boost program is for Year 8 students who have fallen below expected benchmarks and they spend a period per day over four days a week involved in a structured program to provide explicit instruction and modelling,’’ Ms Jones said.
‘‘And our Illuminate program is a school-wide initiative where all students are reading every morning for 19 minutes, engaging in reading conferences to express their understanding of the processes they employ whilst they read and receive personalised points instruction,’’ she said.
‘‘We aim to provide specialised and directed intervention, so the Illuminate teacher gets to know each child in their class, gets to know their reading habits and spends time in class identifying exact points of need to correct in their reading and comprehension
‘‘Spencer has a real passion, based around his own experience of literacy, and we know that one of the big issues is trying to increase student engagement, so by having a role model the kids can just talk to will help them understand how literacy impacts adult life and the need to be directly involved in making steps to improve your own outcomes as early as possible, to improve choices for post-school directions and pathways.’’
Wilding will spend a period with the Boost students, so there will be many opportunities for the students to gain inspiration through engaging with the actor.
‘‘I am really hoping that by sharing his stories about the struggles that have come from poor literacy, his own issues, that he can motivate our students to actively engage in their own learning and transfer that into their own patterns and behaviours in the school environment,’’ Ms Jones said.
Careers teacher Maria Hart said the prospect of Wilding’s visit had given the students something to look forward to.
‘‘He will go into their classes, into the Health and PE classes, he will talk about martial arts, he will go into the food class and the students there are actually baking his birthday cake, so the students are quite involved in all aspects,’’ Ms Hart said.
‘‘Some of the visual communications students have helped with the design of the posters, and are also doing some fan art — drawing pictures of the characters Spencer has played in his movies.
‘‘The drama students will do workshops with Spencer, also some students are involved with the event planning for the gala ball,’’ she said.
‘‘Also journalism — we will get some of the students who are interested in journalism or media as a career to interview Spencer, and photography as well.
‘‘We’ve got some students taking photos, and also videoing the day as well.’’
Ms Hart said there were links with tourism and hospitality students as well.
‘‘I think it will inspire them a lot, to see someone come from another country to Cobram Secondary College and visit us and see the school and the programs that we offer to the students.
‘‘Hopefully, he will inspire some of the students to follow their dreams.
‘‘It’s something special, there will be a lot of media coverage and it’s a good, positive experience for the students.’’
Drama teacher Sally Moore said she was anticipating many flow-on benefits from the school’s interaction with Spencer Wilding.
‘‘We have a lot of students who are really interested in drama and acting but I think sometimes they get tired of me talking about audition and performance skills,’’ Ms Moore said.
‘‘It will be terrific to have the expert,’’ she said.
‘‘They are very excited to have Spencer come in and do actual workshops with them, and also talk about audition tips.
‘‘The students have lots of different ideas about how they would like to utilise him in the class.
‘‘Drama is popular because it’s a little bit of escapism sometimes from the everyday types of classes, but also because its skills translate into so many other classes.
‘‘The students need to do oral presentations in English and if they’re too frightened to get up in front of others, they’re not going to be able to do that.
‘‘And in every position we have in life we are acting in some way, so it teaches us to do different roles — that’s why it’s so important and popular.’’
Ms Moore said the students had been heavily involved with preparations for the Hollywood actor’s visit, including a barbecue and the types of things they would like him to do in the school.
‘‘It’s a whole-school event and all students — not just drama students — have had input unto the visit.’’
●Tickets for the Red Carpet Gala Ball at Bridges Cobram Barooga Golf Club on Friday, July 28 at 6pm are still available at Cobram Newsagency, the Sporties and the school.
- Grahame Whyte