Free to be me
Caleb Venter has lived at Hilton College since he was two. Having grown up on campus, Caleb (now in grade 12) not only knows the property backwards, he knows the heart of the place. It is his physical and emotional home, and a place that has fostered his dreams.
“A lot of people see Hilton College as a school for the elites. That’s a misconception. Hilton’s a very down-to-earth place. Boys come from all economic walks of life. It’s very accepting. And students are allowed to express their opinions; they are free to be who they are.”
Caleb’s father Paul is the director of belonging at Hilton College and head of the history department. His mom Denise is the operations manager for the school’s property developer.
“It hits me at times how amazing it is that I was able to grow up here, in such a beautiful place. I grew up with a bunch of other kids who lived on campus.
“Boys just love this place.
“It’s been the perfect place for me. I suppose it has made me, because of what I’ve been able to do here at such a young age – just walk around campus or go to the pool.
“I realize how lucky I am; it’s sad that most kids aren’t able to live in this sort of safe environment.”
Far from naïve, Caleb realises the world isn’t like an independent school campus, and he carries the responsibility of being socially conscious.
“My dad has been a big contributor to my person. He’s taught me to be accepting of everyone. You shouldn’t judge others; the world isn’t fair to a lot of people, and you need to make sure that it becomes fair to everyone,” he says.
Inspired by his mom, Caleb tries not to let life get him down. “My mom’s always there to say, ‘You’re gonna be fine’. Always there to pick me up when things go wrong, or when I’ve failed.”
The Venters are a family of avid readers. “Books have always been a big part of my life. I have great memories of my mom reading The Philosopher’s Stone to me and my sister, when I was about six.
“I’ve always loved the idea of creating stories and putting what I want onto a page and other people hearing those stories.
“In grade seven, I played the Tin Man in a school production of The Wizard of Oz, and realized I love acting. So much!”
Next year, Caleb plans to study drama at the University of Pretoria. “My sister Erin (21) is studying fine art at Tuks; I love the campus and their drama degree is broad, covering everything from screenwriting and acting to camera work.”
Caleb says he’s fallen in love with many a fictional character. “I remember wanting to be Harry Potter. But recently, I’ve loved Tyrion from Game of Thrones. And Jaime. I love characters who are complex and layered… because we are a mix of good and evil.”
While his talent shines when he’s playing other characters, Caleb is clearly comfortable being Caleb – and a character he is!