Jade Mitchell (1995)

Posted on September 8, 2020

Tell us about your time at Friends’?

I started at The Friends’ School in Kindergarten at the Sherwood campus on the Eastern Shore. Most of the kindergarten class from Sherwood went right through to Year 12 at Clemes. Sherwood was a highlight of my years at Friends’. The little campus of K-2 was made up of small class numbers and a wonderful group of teachers. Every Monday we had “mother’s lunches” where two of the students’ mothers would come in and cook lunch for the whole class. I particularly liked Mrs Fernando’s curry days. Sherwood was located on the cusp of a pine forest and bush land where we often went on nature walks, Aboriginal bush tracking, played hide and seek at the pine forest and had damper nights with sausage sizzles. 

Sherwood: Back/ L-R  Miss Mary Hewitt (Teacher), Sue Thompson (Teacher Aide), Sally Fernando (Parent), Mrs Colleen Fleming (Parent)
Students from the class of 1995 Alison Walker, Julia White, Jade Mitchell, Chris Ayers (rear), Toby Gibbs (rear), Nick Geeves, Robert Fleming, Jeremy Culberg, Michelle Fernando

The Sherwood community was exceptionally close and I feel I would speak on behalf of all who experienced the uniqueness of the campus when I say everyone has fond memories of their time there. All the teachers were fabulous. I have a particularly close relationship with Mrs Jenny Wood since having her as my Grade 2 teacher. She has a wonderful connection to many students but I’m sure has particularly fond memories of those Sherwood years. We all did a science project breeding and selling mice and showed them at a science fair in Launceston. The large stone from the entrance to Sherwood was moved from the Eastern Shore Campus and placed at the gates of the Junior school when Sherwood was sadly closed. 

When I moved to Melbourne and mentioned I went to The Friends’ School people would often remark (eyebrows raised) “were you all friends at Friends’ ?” To which I always answer “Yes”. My network of school friends was deep and wide and the support and friendship I have had with so many has helped me through a lot in my life. I have a genetic Respiratory condition called Cystic Fibrosis. I endured many months of hospital stays throughout my schooling. I always had a line of friends from school coming in to the hospital to visit and keep me company after school. All these people helped me through many days of hospital and treatment. The highlight of hospital was having so many in my room visiting. When once told off by nurses for being too loud a Friends’ school boy remarked “haven’t you heard laughter’s the best medicine?” which erupted the room.

Jenny Wood, Jade Mitchell, 1994 School Formal

Tell us about your time since Friends’?

I finished friends in 1995 and went on to study Bachelor of Early Childhood Studies at Melbourne University. I worked  in child care and then nannying privately for several years. I pride myself on the ongoing and strong relationships I have with the children and families I cared for. I worked several years at a fashion agency doing store visits and merchandising. 

Sadly I had to give up child care due to my respiratory health condition Cystic Fibrosis. I was told by Doctors that I needed to make my health my full time Job. Easy to say and difficult to do as this meant losing a lot of independence. I was faced with the prospect of not having a line of employment that I loved. 

I have been fortunate to travel overseas several times and on one trip discovered a drink bottle in Dubai that was insulated and kept drinks cold and hot. It was a cool shape and nothing like this existed in Australia other than the larger, heavier Thermos. I loved the product so took a chance and went about designing bright colours and importing the bottles into Australia under the brand The Jado Bottle. I used my fashion agency skills to get into up to 50 stores across Australia. It was a small business developed around spending half of my year in hospital and it was something I could manage from my bedside. I loved the experience. Due to ill health I could not continue the scale and trajectory of the company. 

In 2017 I went onto a Lung Transplant list. I received new lungs in 2018 and during a longer than usual recovery I have had a couple of episodes of rejection. In 2019 I got a virus and was in ICU in a coma for 40 days. The recovery was tough. I have recovered well and am now embarking on some new business ideas one of which is a Social Enterprise relating to my experiences during Transplant.

Why did you decide to become an Alumni Rep?

I have so many fond memories of my time at The Friends’ School. I came back to Hobart for our 10 year reunion and have always enjoyed the company of school colleagues.  I have a huge appreciation for the school and the community of people that are part of my life as a result of my schooling.  I am excited to be involved in helping extend our connections beyond school reunions and to help facilitate more extensive relationships with the school beyond student schooling years for all alumni. 

Alison Walker, Jade Mitchell, Jenny Wood, Michelle Fernando, Julia White, in 2010

The initiatives being discussed will allow for connections at many levels. Having lived in Victoria for 20+ years I have witnessed the school connections here and I think there are several exciting ways in which alumni can connect which The Friends’ School is exploring and implementing by growing our Alumni Community.

Life could be categorised into about 3 areas, ourselves, others and community. We get out what we put in. We can get a lot out of our school community groups such as business, charity and alumni relationships but to get the reward we have to get involved so I am keen to encourage more people to become involved in order to build a strong alumni network.

How has the global pandemic affected your life? What has it been like having to return to ‘lock down’ in Victoria? 

Isolation and the lockdowns in Victoria as a result of COVID19 have had a widespread global influence and it is a difficult time. In our household we are used to distancing, isolation and sanitation. I know first hand what it is like to be on a ventilator in ICU and would not wish it on anyone. My whole life I have been more susceptible and aware of the importance of keeping distance from anyone suffering cold and flu illnesses and I have been hospitalised for many due to my Cystic Fibrosis. It is a time that the community needs to be diligent and I hope that we can all stay healthy and safe.

Lockdown in Victoria is affecting everyone – many feel trapped and isolated. I have been trying to explore new things and not worry about an end date for the virus to be gone as it may be around for a while. I am instead trying to focus on how I will continue doing what I want to do. I am attempting things I wouldn’t have done pre Covid.

Whilst we are all isolated I have noted that in an odd way people are more available, open and relaxed. In a business sense people are happier to jump into Zoom calls. Making appointments with people who were previously difficult to reach or pin down is easier. People have become more accessible. People are more open. This seems like a positive and will help to grow networks.

The virus has made the world aware of immunocompromised and vulnerable people.  Hopefully the days of it being acceptable to go to work or visit friends sick will be gone which in the long run will help with all our regular cold and flu statistics. It’s a weird landscape that we are all still learning to navigate.

What have you learned about yourself, and community, since this pandemic began to affect all of our lives?

Our local community has become very connected with whatsapp groups and supporting local business is huge in our area. We buy milk, eggs and bread from our local café. All businesses have had to change and adapt to a rapidly changing new environment and supporting those around you is great for everyone. 

I am typically not routine focused but have found that having set tasks throughout a lockdown day help you get through the day and allow you to feel success at achieving something. It may be as simple as an exercise session, half an hour of online language learning, part of a jigsaw or many other weird and wonderful things but creativity and thinking outside the old box is key in a new landscape. Adaptation can take time but is a necessity for happiness.

What message can you give young Friends’ alumni who are completing their studies and seeking work in a very different world?

I have learnt through living with a terminal illness that nothing is set in stone and the situation can change at any time.

In life we can set goals but for unforeseen reasons the goal posts may move in which case we will have to adapt the ways in which we want to reach the goal.

There will always be obstacles to overcome. There is always a way under, over or around. Things may take longer than you hoped. We are not always measured on our immediate success but the way in which we approach the challenges we face each day. 

When starting my business I was told that your own business is just day on day of challenges and problems. If you accept that business is problem solving then your success will come from how well you are able to solve those problems and keep moving forward. This advice extends to every day.