School’s out forever

“Customers don’t really care that your ATAR was 98.5 if their food’s late.”

It’s an honest appraisal of life after the HSC from a gap-year teenager working part-time in hospitality.

In December 2018, under the headline “Our HSC students are high achievers”, MN News ran a story about the outstanding results schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle achieved. One student was First in Course in NSW, and Diocese schools also achieved seven All Rounder awards and 146 Distinguished Achiever awards.

With the 2019 HSC cohort now contemplating their futures, Aurora caught up with some of the high achievers from the 2018 group from All Saints’ College, St Mary’s Campus at Maitland. Those who went straight to university say it doesn’t entail quite the pressure of the HSC. But not all high achievers head directly to tertiary study.

Sophia Derkenne made the All Rounder list for the 2018 HSC but decided to take a gap year in 2019.  “I’ve tried to play as many different roles as possible since the HSC,” Ms Derkenne said. “Something different to the rigour and rhythm of senior school. I began tutoring English back at All Saints’ at the beginning of 2019, which, as a teen myself, was a great experience of responsibility and insight into working with teenagers. 

“I also landed a job in hospitality; the lack of glamour was an important part of growing my identity from ‘the high achiever’. Customers don’t really care that your ATAR was 98.5 if their food’s late.” 

She also travelled for six-and-a-half weeks.  “It was tough for a high achiever, because I always like to be in control,” she said. “But it was good for my headspace.

“When you have time and less structure, you do different things. I spent a lot of time with family in different ways last year. I went walking with my dad on the Portuguese Camino and went on a silent meditation retreat with my mum. Different and very exciting stuff. 

“And then I continued to develop my creative passions. I was a member of the ATYP National Studio, a playwriting program for emerging Australian artists. I also won the Bayside Council Emerging Artist award for visual art.

“And now I’m off to immerse myself in that world next year, studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Theatre) at the Victorian College of Arts in Melbourne.” 

Fosterton’s Clayton Carlon achieved First in Course in NSW for Industrial Technology in the 2018 HSC. For his major project he built, from first principles, a basic eight-bit computer featuring circuit boards he designed and soldered himself. The HSC markers were so impressed they included it in the Intech Exhibition at The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

Mr Carlon is studying a double engineering degree at the University of Newcastle in electronics and computer systems.  “I’ve just completed my second semester and it’s all going well,” he said. “The workload is probably greater than my HSC year, but the expectations and stress are less.”

Lily Cains also went straight to university, studying a double degree in Law and Arts at Newcastle. But she plans on combining tertiary studies with travel.

“My major is Politics and International Relations,” she said, “and my minor is French. I'm working to hopefully travel overseas to study an intensive short course in international law.”

Sydney Slade was another to make the All Rounder list in 2018 and she is studying Physiotherapy at the University of Newcastle.

“Though it can be challenging at times, I am really enjoying it and am looking forward to second year,” she said. Just as she did during her HSC year, Ms Slade uses sport to balance her life. During her first year at university she also tutored a couple of students in maths.

“I coached a netball team for the first time last year, which was a great experience. I also continued to play rep netball for Maitland, and we were placed second in our division at the 2019 NSW Senior State Titles. This year I am playing netball for Hunter in the DOOLEYS Metro league and will play in the Newcastle Greater competition on weekends.”  

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