Surreal to read Dr Seuss to Mercury Bay Area School “lifers”

16 Nov 2021

Surreal to read Dr Seuss to Mercury Bay Area School “lifers”

Sometimes the term “lifer” refers to a person serving a life sentence. The term also describes someone completing all 13 years of their school career at Mercury Bay Area School. Some of the students would say there’s not much difference. Regardless, there were only wide grins to be seen at the school’s annual Lifers Assembly on Thursday last week.

Directing this year’s assembly - scaled down because of Covid-19 - were MBAS staff members Ann-Maree McDougall, Whaea Hira Waretini-Paul and Mike Wilkinson. All three of them commented on their personal relationships with this year’s four lifers, Dane Bernhard, Te Rahoroi (Ra) Clayton, Ava Lamason and Keegan Wright.  

Mrs McDougall and Whaea Hira touchingly delivered their message of life after MBAS and the exciting journeys that await the students by reading the same story they had read to them when they were five years old. The book was a Dr Suess classic that portrayed the significance of being true to yourself while finding your way through the different stages of life. “We are so incredibly proud of the people you have become, I know that each of you will do amazing things with your lives,” Mrs McDougall said. 

“Our Lifers Assembly is truly a treasure to hold on to,” Mr Wilkinson added. “It’s a real unique celebration that unfortunately not many were here to witness today due to Covid regulations. Nonetheless, with or without many present, it is and will always be a beautiful tradition of MBAS that holds a lot of weight and significance.” 

Whaea Hira admitted that this year’s assembly was especially emotional for her. “I taught Ra Clayton for many years in primary school and have watched him grow into the young man he is today,” she said. “He will be one of the last kids I’ll know as personally as I’ll be graduating from my teaching role into being a deputy principal very soon.”

All three teachers agreed that “reading to [the students] as full-grown adults, but remembering them as children was a very surreal moment” and one they’ll “never get used to”. Although, as Whaea Hira explained on Thursday, “In moments like these, you really do feel the depth of your role of being a teacher. It’s extremely moving and inspiring, which is why celebrating the MBAS lifers is so important to us teachers and the students as it’s ultimately a deep connection to your roots.”

The four lifers enjoyed the assembly. “I’ve found the Lifers Assembly important in reminding me of how lucky I am to have earned my education at MBAS, a school that has been very supportive of me,” said Ava Lamason. “I plan on completing a building apprenticeship which is exciting considering I’ll be another girl entering the trades fighting gender stereotypes.” 

Dane Bernhard is another who has big plans of joining the trades, but as a mechanic instead. His main takeaway from his 13 years of school is that “life goes by fast, but goes by slowly in school”. 


Francesca Dowling is a recently appointed junior reporter at The Informer. She is also a Mercury Bay Area School lifer, having attended her own Lifers Assembly only a few years ago.


Pictured - The four “lifers” who attended Mercury Bay Area School for all 13 years of their school careers with four of the school’s new entrants (who may themselves be lifers in 2034) on Thursday last week. From left to right: Dane Bernhard, Jake Winchcomb, Jake Cleaver, Te Rahoroi Clayton, Ava Lamason, Nash Martin, Isla Shepherd and Keegan Wright