Story by GO supporter and Stories for Simon author Lisa Sarzin.

Family and culture are important to new GO Scholar Shayla Varcoe and she is excited that the GO Scholarship provides her with an opportunity to learn more about her culture. “I’m a Narungga Ngarrindjerri, from Point Pearce and Raukkan” says Shayla with immense pride. “My Nan was from Raukkan, also my Pop, but he then moved to Point Pearce.”   Shayla is a Year 8 student at Adelaide High, currently living on Kaurna land.

“When I was growing up we lived in Millicent and travelled back and forth to Adelaide to visit my Nan when she was on chemo. I was really close to my Nan and Pop growing up. But since my Pop was part of the Stolen Generations he didn’t know much about his past. He only managed to find like four or three of his sisters of about 10 so he doesn’t know much.  I just know that he was staying in a shed in the bush and that’s when they came and stole him.”

Shayla is one of six siblings, and is especially close to her older sister, Shakira, “My sister is my best friend” she says warmly. During lockdown the sisters had the only two laptops in the busy household, so they drew up a roster to share the laptops with their younger siblings so everyone could join zoom lessons and stay up to date with school work.

The GO Scholarship will make a big difference to Shayla and her family who lost their house in Millicent last year, “It will help my family so much, as my Mum always has to buy new supplies for my sisters for school like school shoes, books, and pens and pencils which are really expensive.”

Shayla values the sacrifice that her parents have made over the years, “Dad would work night shifts and Mum would work day shifts and we barely saw my Mum and Dad. We didn’t grow up with much but Mum and Dad tried to help us and we were grateful for what we had.”

The GO Scholarship has also motivated Shayla academically. She dreams of becoming a forensic investigator “I’ve always had that passion since I was little” she says. Her favourite subjects are Maths and Science which are perfectly aligned with her goals.

Shayla is most proud of improving her grades from C’s and D’s last year to A’s and B’s this year. This is no small feat given the stresses and pressures of pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, and a large household sharing and juggling access to technology and quiet spaces. She stayed focussed in class and gave up lunches and recesses to study for tests.

Shayla intends to take this positive, proactive and organised approach into the remaining years of High School, “I want to be a successful woman and hopefully be a role model to my little sisters and show them that if they put their mind to something they can achieve it.”  Shayla hopes to one day travel the world, doing a job she loves. The words that Shayla lives by are these: “Don’t be someone you’re not. You don’t need to fake yourself to make yourself the best. Be kind.”

As Christmas approaches, Shayla looks forward to a well-deserved holiday involving reunions with family and doing the things she loves like baking, sleeping in and swimming at the beach with friends, before embracing 2022 with energy and purpose as a proud new member of the GO family.