Narrabri students answer call when opportunity knocks

The 2023 HSC class at Narrabri High School shine a light on the achievements of country students. Linda Doherty reports.

Image: Narrabri High School Year 12 students celebrate their HSC year in style.

From sporting legends to STEM superstars, inventors and mentors, Narrabri High’s 52 HSC students have been celebrated in an inspirational snapshot of achievement in a rural town.

‘Narrabri Courier’ journalist Kavina Kumar interviewed students about their achievements and post-school pathways, including “the bright stars of our generation” and those who overcame adversity such as homelessness and the grief of losing a friend.

“I’ve chosen a snapshot of the many different achievements that are possible for every individual student at Narrabri High School,” Ms Kumar wrote.

“Students who made the most of every opportunity and the ones who discovered the power to believe in themselves and their capabilities.”

Narrabri High School principal Simon Warden said it was “part of the mindset” of rural and regional principals and teachers to provide as many curricular and extra-curricular opportunities as possible for students to succeed.

“The achievements of our 2023 Year 12 students are quite remarkable as a group and so much credit goes to their teachers who were with them every step of the way,” he said.

Jesse Weekes, a 2023 school captain, initiated a youth mental health podcast, and has been involved in soccer and Scouts for a decade.

“I enjoyed my education at Narrabri High School, with many of the struggles of being from a country town also giving way to great opportunities like achieving 93 for my ATAR,” he told the ‘Narrabri Courier’.

“The size of the school meant close-knit year groups and we had plenty of opportunities and great new teachers coming through the rural and remote teachers’ program.”

Mr Warden said many students received early entry offers to universities in Australian cities and will soon start studying pharmacy, education, data science, agriculture and music. Other students already have local jobs and apprenticeships, are taking a gap year, or pursuing creative careers.

Charlie Cooke discovered her love of agriculture at Narrabri High and is experienced in parading and judging livestock at agricultural shows. She plans to take a gap year to broaden her knowledge of agricultural enterprises before studying agricultural business management at uni.

“I applied for three universities – Charles Sturt, University of New England and University of Newcastle and got accepted to all,” she said.

Sofie Foster is heading north to work on a cattle station and said her proudest achievement was studying Textiles through distance education at Dubbo and creating an Indian culturally-inspired dress as her major work.

The many sports stars from the Class of 2023 include prefect Bernard O’Connor, a member of the NSW under 18 rugby team that won the Australian Schoolboys rugby championship; Holly Ford who played Rugby 7s for NSW; state swimmer Alex Mison who will study pharmacy at the University of Sydney; and netballer Mackenzie Knox who umpired at the Indigenous All-Stars netball game in Sydney.

Image: The graduating class of 2023.

Vice-captain Sid Harvey was in the Waratahs under 18 rugby team and the Australian under 18 7s team and is currently training with the Waratahs Academy. He starts a Bachelor of Science and Education at the University of NSW next month.

“Being so far from the city meant I had to travel for sport, so I missed a lot of school. This made the HSC a bit harder, but I got it done in the end,” he said.

School captain Miranda Hamilton starts infantry combat training with the Australian Army in February. A talented rugby player, she rose at 3.30am on school days to go to a job before her classes.

Joss Kennedy is the first in his family to graduate Year 12 and credits the support of his teachers and the Clontarf Academy who encouraged him to finish school.

“The work and written tests were really hard but with the help of the teachers I could complete the work,” he said.

The Clontarf Academy mentors Aboriginal students at Narrabri High and another student, Blake Boney, said this support kept him at school to complete his HSC and a major work in Aboriginal Studies.

“It’s a dot painting of a running river with turtles in it, which is now hanging up in my family home,” he said.

“I didn't think I could do art, but I surprised myself.

“The best thing about Clontarf is what it stands for: believing in young Indigenous boys and helping them reach their full potential.”

Clayton Laws was also considering leaving school before Year 12 but was helped by the Clontarf Academy to work part-time until he finished the HSC.

“They helped with my studies and enrolled me in TAFE courses to get some trade certifications.”

He now has “a job I really enjoy” as an electrical apprentice with a local business.

Vice-captain Eliza Dampney will this year study her “dream degree” – a Bachelor of Data Science and Decisions at the University of NSW. She attended the National Youth Science Forum and has inspired girls at Narrabri High to switch on to STEM subjects.

“I'm proud to have left a legacy behind at Narrabri High and hope that the students continue to take the initiative, give things a go, take on opportunities and encourage and guide our younger peers,” she said.

Academic and sporting all-rounder and 2023 prefect Matt Evans will study agricultural engineering at the University of Southern Queensland and said he achieved his goals with the support of his teachers, family and community.

“Narrabri High School has been an amazing school where I have been given many opportunities. The teachers are invested in the students and have given me the opportunity to thrive in a rural community,” he said.

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