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Governor’s awards for inspiring students


From organising fundraisers where heads were shaved, to creating fun video messages to buoy the spirits of those learning remotely, the nine Catholic school students awarded a Governor of South Australia commendation in 2020 were an inspiration to their peers and the wider community.

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A total of 28 students from throughout South Australia were presented with a Commendation at the SACE Merit Ceremony on February 1. The prestigious award acknowledges students for their excellence in Year 12 SACE subjects as well as highlighting the qualities young people need for community life, citizenship and work.

Loreto College student Kate McKay typified the commitment of many students to be involved in community activities despite the rigours of Year 12, a pandemic and in her case, health issues.

Her final year of secondary schooling began with major surgery to her right knee to alleviate chronic pain. Hobbling around on crutches for several months, she underwent an operation on her left knee later in the year and the rehabilitation started all over again.

“I spent a quarter of 2020 on crutches,” she told The Southern Cross.

“However, I was fortunate to have had a leadership role as Social Justice captain which, despite proving challenging due to COVID, became a positive source of encouragement in the school community.”

She threw herself into her music, playing both the viola and cello in school and her studies including participating in the University of Adelaide’s Headstart program.

Achieving merits in the Research Project and Legal Studies in 2020 and Modern History in 2019, Kate will be studying Computer Science and International Security Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra this year.

David Sutton was a school leader at Xavier College and overcame the challenges of a heart condition to excel in his studies. An outstanding mathematician, he studied in the Headstart program, and received a high distinction for Mathematics.

David provided support to his peers and undertook maths tutoring for younger students. Prior to Year 12 he played basketball with Hoops4Life, an organisation that helps children from refugee and low socio-economic backgrounds.

Catherine Dalton used her leadership position as St Mary’s College captain to create short, fun video bites to keep students connected to the school community during the time of remote learning. The videos covered topics such as studying at home, wellbeing and staying active in isolation.

Catherine coordinated and participated in a number of school and community events, including the Big Sister Program, Girl Up, the Vinnies Sleepout, school ushering, the athletics squad, netball and basketball teams and coaching.

Putting the health of her family members above her own needs, Catherine chose to study at home for a period of time during COVID.

“From my Year 12 experience I learnt the importance of adaptability and in a year of such uncertainty, I utilised my support network within and out of school so much more,” she said.

With merits in Physics, Integrated Learning and Biology in 2020, and Mathematical Methods and Chemistry in 2019, Silas Hansch-Maher received a Commendation and was named Dux of Saint Ignatius’ College.

A gifted orator and communicator, Silas found time during his studies to reintroduce, write and edit the student magazine and hosted and produced the weekly digital school news bulletin. He was Senior Debating captain and won the Open A State debating title, representing Australia in the Brain Bee competition in South Korea, where he placed fifth in the world.

Silas used his IT skills during COVID by contributing to com-munity online activities including dismissal blessings and assemblies. He worked with the Kaurna Elders to receive approval and support to learn the Kaurna language to deliver the Acknowledgement of Country. He was involved in chapel services as a Eucharistic Minister, with the social justice initiative ‘The Cage’ and participated in community service at a Salvation Army store and with Meals on Wheels.

Paras Stefanopoulos from
St Michael’s College achieved merits in Chemistry, Mathematical Methods, Specialist Mathematics, Physics and the Research Project. He used his passion for computer science to start his own business that helps the elderly with computer repairs and malware removal. Paras also developed an online multiplayer game that has been used in workplaces internationally.

Commendation recipient and Dux of Cardijn College, Wes Weetra, was a leader in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Group and supported younger students with their literacy and numeracy needs.

Passionate about the physical, social and mental health of individuals, Wes led an awareness campaign to inform the school community about the dangers of excess consumption of caffeinated products. He created his own juice bar, raising funds for charity.

Rostrevor school captain Gianni Bergamin was acknowledged for the fundraising efforts of his prefect group for numerous charitable causes. They raised more than $11,000, with Gianni adding a further $5000 when he had his head shaved as part of the World’s Greatest Shave for Leukaemia, a cause close to his heart as his uncle had suffered from childhood leukaemia.

Cardijn College’s Gabrielle Connolly was Mission captain and is a member of Young Christian Students which helps those in need within her community and she led the college’s RU OK? Day and Walk a Mile in My Boots. She was a voluntary maths tutor at Homework Club and among her many community roles, plays the piano at Perry Park Residential Care Home.

This year Gabrielle will study at university, as well as working part time at schools in the local area and volunteering at St Luke’s Church in the Noarlunga-Seaford parish.

Giovanni Elias was named Dux of Rostrevor College, achieving merits in Biology, English, General Mathematics, Psychology and the Research Project. During the year he offered free online tutoring to students across Adelaide who were impacted by COVID, in addition to the regular tutoring he provided for Rostrevor students.

He pursued his soccer career at NPL level and volunteered at an aged care home. Giovanni said his academic success was due to a well-balanced lifestyle and good time management skills.



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