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Billy’s hard work blooms into university offer

The calmness of the garden and a willingness to get his hands dirty has been one student’s secret to getting into university.

Billy Vassilakis and Omar Chahrouk stand in the garden surrounded by flowers

Green thumbs: Belmore Boys High School graduate Billy Vassilakis and teacher Omar Chahrouk.

HSC graduate Billy Vassilakis has his future mapped out and knows he will be heading to university next month.

While studying policing was not his original plan, the Belmore Boys High graduate sees the course as a pathway to his goal to give back to society.

“I want to try and do youth work [through the police force],” Billy said. “I see it as a way I can help people, and help the world.”

Billy’s offer to study at Western Sydney University was among more than 96,000 offers made by the Universities Admissions Centre since December. University applications for semester 1, 2019, close on Friday for some tertiary courses.

The former school prefect had planned to study agriculture – inspired by the gardening program he joined at Belmore Boys High School and his late grandfather, who taught him to garden as a child.

“I’ve always loved the farm life,” he said. “My pappou taught me to garden. It’s very peaceful.”

He said although he was moving in a new direction he would continue to get his hands dirty.

“I’m definitely still going to do gardening. At the moment I’m working for a landscaping company until I start uni,” he said.

Billy said he had changed career tack when he had failed to secure the ATAR required.

He was not surprised at his score of 60, as he’d been unwell during final exams.

“I was expecting that result. I was sick in hospital during my exams, so I didn’t get as much time to study.”

However, his dedication at school saw him receive a place on the Distinguished Achievers list for his visual arts course.

Agriculture teacher Omar Chahrouk said the school was proud of Billy’s personal development.

“Billy came to us in Year 7, and struggled with a sense of belonging,” Mr Chahrouk said. “The garden program allowed him to build a positive self-image for himself among his peers. It’s a real character progression.”

Belmore Boys started its garden program in 2012, with Billy among the first students to study agriculture for the HSC, alongside 10 other boys in his year.

“You just need to walk into the school to see the impact it [the garden program] has had,” Mr Chahrouk said.

The program was last year awarded a Secretary’s Award for an Outstanding School Initiative.

Billy draws a direct line between the garden program, the time he spent with his grandfather, and his current drive to make a positive impact in the world.

“Since the age of six, we used to do the gardening, and when the fruit were in season, we’d eat them. We’d grow pumpkins and make pumpkin soup, we’d grow pomegranates and eat them,” Billy said.

“At school I used to go on my weekends [to the garden], I used to go help and just do it.”

Billy said he was happy to have completed his HSC.

“If it wasn’t for my school, and the teachers who’ve pushed me, I wouldn’t have been [going to university]. [Gardening] was my passion, and [through the gardening program] they made school into something I could look forward to.”

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