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Stepping up to the challenge


Year 12 students graduating in 2021 have demonstrated great resilience, completing their final year of study while a pandemic ravaged the world.

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Despite a disrupted 2021 school year – which included a week-long lockdown in July, restrictions and mask wearing – some excellent results were achieved by the top students at South Australia’s 33 Catholic secondary schools. In total, 3403 Catholic school graduates obtained their SACE and a further 17 students, all from Mercedes College, successfully completed the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma.

Highlights included 99.3 per cent SACE completion, 34.4 per cent of grades in the A Band and 327 merit certificates awarded to 260 students.

Director of Catholic Education SA, Neil McGoran said the Class of 2021 could be very proud of their achievements.

“They have been faced with COVID-19 restrictions and other challenges, yet they have faced them head-on and not allowed them to be a barrier to success,” he said.

“They have demonstrated incredible determination and resilience during what has been a challenging year. Thank you to the students’ families who have been alongside them throughout this year and throughout their 13 years of schooling.”

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

Gathering for a photo shoot with The Southern Cross it was inevitable that COVID would play a part, with three of the top students having to withdraw at the last minute due to positive test results with family members.

Reflecting on their Year 12 journey, many of the Catholic school duces said they owed their success to their fellow students, teachers and families who provided unwavering support in often trying times.

Dux of St Michael’s College, Valen Kostich, paid tribute to his teachers and other mentors who “helped me through the year”.

“I am very grateful to have developed such strong relationships with them,” he said. “In terms of work and study, I very quickly learned the relevance of time management and a consistent work ethic. My advice to future students is to be persistent in their study and set clear standards in the quality of the work they wish to achieve.”

Antonia De Angelis, one of St Ignatius’ College’s three duces, said Year 12 came with its own “unique challenges and expectations”.

“I found it hard to settle into the rhythm of the year but I learnt to surround myself with people who truly understood me and always looked out for me, which really made all the difference,” she said.

“My advice would be to find those people and hold on tight – some of my closest friendships were formed during Year 12 and it was the support that these people offered that enabled me to succeed, whether it be academically, through sport or through my role as senior leader.”

St Paul’s College Dux, Hayden Reddick, said he found it important to keep “clear and open communication” with teachers.

“With the stress that comes with the final year of secondary education, especially in the midst of a pandemic, I found it easy to fall behind or struggle in my studies,” he said. “It was in this situation that with the support of my teachers I was able to find success in my Year 12 studies.”

Dux of Loreto College and a Governor’s Commendation recipient, Lily Farrell said like others in her cohort, her Year 12 experience was “very unusual and unpredictable”.

“Over the past two years I have dedicated a lot of my time to my studies and Year 12, but the support of my parents and my teachers have made all the difference,” she explained.

“I was also a school captain of social justice which was an added pressure on top of Year 12, leading to a lot of late nights and early mornings at school organising events or meetings with teachers, but I would try to remember to balance school and relaxing by putting down my books and spending time with my friends and family.”

Mary MacKillop College Dux, Danielle Roselle agreed that while it was essential to “push yourself to be the best you can”, it was vital to allocate time for leisure and “understand the importance of balance”.

Several of the high achievers successfully juggled the rigors of study with their elite sporting commitments.

Tess White, Dux of Tenison Woods College in Mount Gambier and also a recipient of a Governor’s Commendation, said she found the key to fulfilling her high level track cycling commitments while reducing the stresses of Year 12 was to complete her schoolwork with “ample time” before due dates.

Keeley Menadue had to have an extended period away from school earlier in the year after suffering an eye injury that required surgery. She also competed in several equestrian events during the year but still managed to achieve outstanding results and was named Dux of Xavier College.

Ryan Kelton, Dux of Sacred Heart College, represented the State in squash and gridiron and said participating in sports provided a “nice balance” to the Year 12 workload. He added that studying computer science as a subject in the Headstart program at the University of Adelaide was also “extremely beneficial” in achieving a high ATAR.

“This was a great introduction to university life,” he said.

Several other students were also part of the Headstart program and echoed Ryan’s comments.

Music pursuits were also popular for many of the high achievers.

Heading to the University of Adelaide this year to study chemical engineering, Sebastian Alfred, Dux of Christian Brothers College, said he would like to continue to be involved with music by participating in various ensembles and starting his own jazz band.

Bella Courtney, joint Dux of Cabra Dominican College, still managed to participate in many extra-curricular activities including choir, piano, solo singing and mock trial, along with working a part-time job every week.

For Juliana Laverde, Dux of St Aloysius College, her spare time was taken up with helping to produce the school’s literary publication, Muse Magazine.

With a gap year of travelling still difficult due to the pandemic, a majority of the top students said they were now looking forward to continuing their studies at university in 2022.

Medicine, law, engineering and science degrees were well represented in the ‘wish list’, with others keen to pursue psychology and paramedics. Several graduates are embarking on an arts degree, with a focus on history, politics and even paleontology.


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