Lua PellegriniLua graduated from Loreto Normanhurst in 2019.  A GO scholar for five years, Lua is now preparing for her first year at uni.  She’s written this article about how she managed her Year 12 studies, with some great insights and tips for coping with the juggle!

With the assistance of the GO foundation since 2015, I was lucky enough to attend one of Sydney’s most prestigious schools, giving me the ability to grow not only academically but holistically. This prospect was something I was immensely grateful for as it opened the doors to so many opportunities; opportunities that both my older sisters didn’t have, giving me the drive and determination to want to achieve within my studies. Year 12 is both an exciting and difficult time for many students; for some this is more difficult than others. For me the challenges of a busy home life as well as my struggles with dyslexia had always been a complicated task to navigate throughout my schooling. However, despite my many hiccups along the way waking up on the 17th of December to see I achieved a place on the honor roll as an all-rounder, achieving a Band 6 in all my subjects as well as ranking 3rd in the state for Aboriginal Studies made my efforts all worthwhile.

I believe one of the hardest parts of year 12 is maintaining a balance between school life, culture, home life and social life. For me, I was able to maintain a strong sense of culture through my studies using my major works in both Visual Arts and Aboriginal Studies as an opportunity to explore culture through a range of mediums including photography, painting, storytelling and language enabling me to build a stronger relationships with my community, specifically my local elders Uncle Wes Marne and Uncle Greg Simms. At the beginning of Year 12 I was chosen to be a part of a school-based immersion trip to Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire, and with the financial assistance of GO I was once again able to successfully explore culture through my school-based experiences. By integrating culture within my studies, I found that I had more motivation to complete my major works as I was extremely passionate and invested. Incorporating culture within my year 12 studies benefitted me academically whilst also allowing me to gain invaluable knowledge and experiences that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

Being the first sibling to complete year 12 came with its own set of unique challenges as I had never seen or experienced what year 12 looked like in my household before. Although at times I am sure I was fair less than pleasant to be around, I tried to ensure that I continued to spend time with my family, specifically my younger brothers as I knew the following year I would be off to college and as much as I hate to admit it, missing them dearly. During my study for the HSC often after a day at the library I would take my brothers to the park as it was a great distraction from the stress of HSC and gave me the opportunity to move around after sitting still for such a long period of time. Although I wasn’t as vigilant with helping out at home when I did have time, I would make sure I still assisted as much as possible such as driving my brothers to school when I had free periods or babysitting my nieces. Although year 12 is an extremely important time regarding academics it is also imperative to sustain a sense of normality as the HSC is a marathon rather than a sprint and it’s easy to feel over worked at times.

The hardest part about managing social life and study is having the ability to judge yes or no. Managing social life and school commitments was something that I found overwhelming at times, thankfully, I have an amazing group of friends that were all equally driven to achieve in their final year. Saying no to events and parties in the beginning was sometimes difficult however, I learnt quickly if I knew I was pushed for time it was always better to say no than to still be working on an essay at 8:20am that’s due at 8:25am. Participating in IGGSA Basketball with my friends was also another way in which I balanced my social life and study, doing a team sport was a lot of fun and it also made me wake up early on Saturdays, allowing me to maximise my day to study and ensuring I could make time to go out with friends.

Lastly, academics is a big part of year 12 a great teacher of mine would always remind me “you don’t want to end with any regrets”, this was something that always pushed me to work harder. I was often told that my subjects unfortunately didn’t scale well leaving me feeling hopeless and worried about my ATAR. At the conclusion of year 11 I had to drop one of my subjects, I narrowed this down to Community and Family Studies (CAFS) or Legal studies. After being told CAFS didn’t scale well I worried about continuing it however, I still decided to choose CAFS as it was a subject I loved, and I graduated with 2nd place in the subject and receiving a HSC mark of 96 making CAFS one of my best subjects. For any student worrying about scaling I would argue that it’s far more important to do subjects you enjoy rather than subject that ‘scale’ well as if you are genuinely interested it will hardly feel like work at all.

Throughout year 12 I worked on achieving goals that were practical for me.  At the beginning this meant simply making the effort to complete all homework tasks and work consistently on my major works, as my dyslexia made even this challenging at one stage. Once I began to find my way, I started making notes and doing additional practice responses which I found enormously beneficial. As I knew my spelling was a major hurdle, I would often have subject specific spelling words like Shakespeare character names and complicated religious terms. Although at first it seemed rather insignificant, I feel this helped my work hugely and I would highly recommend this.

Following graduation it is very easy to fall out of routine and deviate from studying however, it is so important to continue to work hard until the HSC as this is the time in which I believe it’s possible to achieve the most growth. Having the proper environment to work in is so important whether that is your room, the library or the kitchen bench, having a busy family I knew I couldn’t study at home, so I needed to find an alternative study space. Macquarie library was where I did majority of my study, in the beginning I struggled to work longer than 4 hours however, by the end I could easily spend up 9 hours. I was lucky enough to have my friends often with me at the library allowing us to take breaks together and work collaboratively, although this was sometimes distracting it made studying a lot more interesting.

My mum has always maintained the belief that a happy life is the key to great success, making this the driving force for many of her choices.  This philosophy is something that was at the forefront of my thinking throughout my final years of high school; specifically year 12. Within my final year I was heavily involved in all aspects of school life, maintaining a leadership position on the house council as Creative Arts Leader, involving myself in a range of school sports including touch football and basketball.  I also took on the role as an extra-ordinary minister of the eucharist and I was a part of two immersion trips, one to Yarrabah and one to New York, for Visual Arts. In addition, I regularly spent time with my friends and family, participated in a range of community service ventures, maintained my role as a Young Carers leader, attended all GO events and had a lot of fun throughout the year.

I received an ATAR of 97.55.  However, I couldn’t have received that result without the support of my family, particularly my parents, my friends, my teachers, specifically Miss Samarasinghe, and all the assistance from the GO Foundation. Having the opportunity to attend a private school is something I will never take for granted.  I will always be appreciative for the work of the foundation as it truly has enabled me to live out my potential. I would encourage all GO students to make the most of the opportunities they are given and maximise their capability by utilising the support of their schools, teachers, friends, families and the GO foundation. Having Aboriginal students graduate year 12 and continuing into tertiary education is imperative. I will be the first person in my family to graduate year 12 and go to university. The significance of this goes beyond my individual self, as it is said, when an Aboriginal person is educated, they not only heal 10 generations going back, but also save 10 generations going forward.