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Success for Class of 2020 in face of adversity


In a year like no other where the challenges of Year 12 were exacerbated by the pressures of a pandemic, the Class of 2020 had some impressive academic results to celebrate.

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A total of 3287 Catholic school graduates from across 33 Catholic schools in the State obtained their SACE in 2020, for a 99.58 per cent completion rate. There were 6394 results in the A Band and 355 merit certificates awarded to 280 students.

Catholic colleges in the Adelaide Archdiocese proudly announced their Duxes prior to Christmas, with Mercedes College holding off until early January when International Baccalaureate Diploma results were posted.

Reflecting on what had been a tough year for many, Catholic Education SA director Dr Neil McGoran said that “not even a pandemic has been a barrier to our students”.

“I congratulate the students on their focus and determination,” he said.

“They have demonstrated incredible resilience during a challenging year. I also express my thanks to the students’ families who have been alongside them throughout this year and, indeed, throughout their 13 years of schooling.”

Dr McGoran also paid tribute to the teachers and school staff who supported the cohort.

While they may not have been a barrier to success, COVID restrictions did present some major hurdles for students, particularly those living far from home.

For Belle Merrett, the closure of Sacred Heart College’s boarding house early in Term 2 threw a curve ball that required some swift action to keep her Year 12 studies on track.

Worried that their daughter might get locked down in Adelaide, Belle’s parents brought her back to their home in Penola where she studied remotely for a short while. However, Belle wanted to get back to attending school in person and with the boarding house still closed, she found alternative accommodation with a friend’s family.

“This proved to be a difficult time for me, forcing me to heavily rely on the support of my teachers – who were amazing – and most definitely improved my resilience,” she said.

When the boarding house re-opened there were new rules and restrictions regarding movement and attending events.

“I couldn’t go out much and so I didn’t go to parties and decided instead to just concentrate on my study.”

Her hard work paid off, with Belle achieving an ATAR of 99.6 and named Dux of Sacred Heart. This year she will study a Bachelor of Medical Imaging at UniSA.

Other Duxes of Catholic colleges told The Southern Cross that their Year 12 experience had been a positive one despite the pandemic, and attributed their success to striking the right balance between school work and extra-curricular activities.

Lucy Thiselton, Dux of Cabra College, said it was necessary to plan your time well and be organised, to “keep on top” of your workload.

“I think it is also important to get involved with extra-curricular activities which allow students to socialise and have a break from a heavy workload,” she said.

“I was Mission Captain at my school which gave me the feeling of being productive even when I wasn’t doing school work. Another piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask for help from your teachers and fellow students. It can be a scary idea but it’s rewarding.”

Rostrevor College Dux and Governor’s Commendation recipient Giovanni Elias echoed the need for a balanced lifestyle.

“Studying for long periods can actually be detrimental, thus the importance in participating in extra-curricular activities,” he said.

Like several of his high achieving peers, Giovanni is hoping to study Medicine in 2021.

Nikki Olszewski, Dux of Nazareth College, said it was important to recognise your achievements: “I would definitely advise all future Year 12 students to pay close attention to what is contributing to their mental health and to always celebrate the small things, even if it is getting up for the day.”

Dux of Christian Brothers College, Joseph Tripodi agreed, adding: “My advice is to recognise the full worth of all the little things that transpire. You have to appreciate the small moments shared with your friends, and remind them of that too because memories are utterly priceless.”

Seeking the support and advice of teachers contributed to Kildare College Dux Grace Builder’s academic success, while Lara Copeland, Dux of Gleeson College, reinforced the need to choose subjects you are passionate about.

“By doing this, the workload will seem easier as it is more enjoyable,” she said.

Mercedes College Dux Elizabeth Chisholm, who completed the IB Diploma, summed up the thoughts of many the Class of 2020.

“While slightly different to expected, my Year 12 experience is one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

“My tip for students completing their Year 12 would be to take a balanced approach towards everything, including social, academic, work and sporting commitments.”



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