Zeyad from Liverpool Boys High School wins big!

An innovative education program has helped an EVET student from Liverpool Boys High School direct his learning towards a very personal passion and set himself up for success after school

Image: Zeyad is the 2021 VET in Schools Student of the Year for Southern and South Western Sydney

Zeyad Al-Dulaimi displays a confidence and maturity that belies his relative youth. His level-headedness probably has something to do with his life experience. The Year 12 student at Liverpool Boys High School was born in Iraq not long after coalition forces invaded the country. Zeyad and his family fled to Syria before settling in south-west Sydney, an experience that seems to have contributed to his character. Later, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an experience that sparked his interest in medicine. Still, Zeyad puts his ‘confidence’ down to something else.

“I wouldn’t say I’m confident, but if you’d spoken to me a year ago you would notice the difference,” he concedes.

“Big Picture has definitely helped me a lot.”

The Big Picture Academy is an alternative learning stream that allows students to pursue their interests and passions through deep learning experiences. Designed and developed by Big Picture Education Australia, a not-for-profit committed to personalised, passion-based learning, the Academy has helped Zeyad not just zero in on his post-school pathway, but grow as an individual.

“The Big Picture students don’t spend their days in structured, mainstream classes,” says Danielle Demetrios, the Academy’s Head Teacher at the school.

“There are mandatory components of the Big Picture design that students need to do and we hold them accountable for, but ultimately it’s up to the students to structure their day with our support and guidance.”

For Zeyad, that support team includes Danielle as well as Jane Wilson who is his Advisory Teacher in the Big Picture Academy, and Gail Tucker, the school’s Careers Adviser. Together, Zeyad and his teachers have mapped out a pathway to nursing, and potentially medicine after that.

“I want to do registered nursing and after that try and work my way up, either to doing medicine or to becoming a specialist nurse, but we’ll see where life takes me,” says Zeyad.

For now, he’s flat out completing his Certificate III Health Services Assistance (Assisting in Nursing Work in Acute Care) with NSW Health Liverpool Hospital and building a portfolio through Big Picture that he’ll use to support his university application at the end of the year. It’s a big workload – and one he says has his dad slightly concerned – but according to his teachers, Zeyad is managing well.

“With Zeyad, because his Big Picture senior project aligns directly with his outlearning and Certificate III, he’s not overwhelmed trying to balance conflicting priorities as all areas of his learning are connected to his passion” says Danielle.

So, how long has Zeyad been involved with the Big Picture Academy and how has it helped him?

“I started Big Picture in Year 9,” says Zeyad.

“It’s very different to mainstream learning. It’s a lot of communication, a lot of speaking to people in the field you’re interested in. Then at the end of each term, we do what’s called an exhibition where we present what we’ve been learning.”

Chatting to Zeyad, it’s clear that the emphasis on communication has rubbed off. He’s articulate, engaging and poised. He also says he’s a lot more organised these days.

“Before I started Big Picture, my time management was terrible, but with the help of my advisers, and through growing up, I’ve been able to manage the different things I’m doing a lot better,” he says.

It’s pretty clear that Zeyad is doing a bit better than merely managing his commitments. He’s thriving. Recently, Zeyad was crowned the 2021 VET in Schools Student of the Year for Southern and South Western Sydney. Listening to him describe the process, it sounds like entering the awards was tougher than doing the work that led to his nomination.

“At first, I didn’t think it was going to be a big thing, but after seeing what was involved in entering…,” says Zeyad, laughing.

“We spent a lot of time getting it done and refining it, but in the end the panel said I knocked it out of the park.”

It’s not hard to imagine Zeyad nailing the interview, nor is it difficult to see him succeeding in his chosen career. Thanks to the Big Picture Academy’s innovative approach to learning, and the support of his teachers at Liverpool Boys, Zeyad is all set for success.

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