Leone Smyth Editorial 16 February 2024

As we start a new academic year, we were very pleased to welcome back students from Year 12 2023 to our High Achievers Assembly last Friday. This was a chance for us to recognise their success in the HSC and celebrate as a community. The fact it was on Brigidine’s 70th birthday made it even more special. We acknowledged 62 students who had achieved one or more of the following criteria:

  • Nomination or selection in one of the HSW Showcase events for Dance, Drama, Design and Technology, Music, Textiles and Design, and Visual Arts.
  • An All Rounder, having achieved a Band 6 result in 10 units
  • An ATAR of 90 or more
  • A place in the state for a particular course

Each of these girls shared their plans for 2024, which ranged from gap years to TAFE and university, all in a very wide range of fields. This definitely served as sources of hope and inspiration, encouraging our current students to see what is possible in their own futures if they pursue their individual dreams with determination.

While it is natural to focus on the high achievers at this time of year, we know that it’s equally important to recognise and celebrate success at all levels and in all endeavours – such as cocurricular activities, community involvement and personal growth.

At school, success manifests in various forms, both big and small. The grand achievements, such as earning the title of Dux or excelling in a challenging subject, are undeniably significant. However, we believe it is equally crucial to recognise the smaller victories that contribute to a student’s overall growth and development. These may include mastering a difficult concept after persistent effort, overcoming personal obstacles to attend classes regularly, or demonstrating kindness and empathy towards classmates. Each of these instances represents a triumph in its own right, showcasing the resilience, determination and character of the individual. By celebrating both the big and little examples of success, we aim to foster an environment where every accomplishment is valued, and every student is encouraged to strive for excellence in their own unique ways.

In her address the College Dux, Hailey Cerneaz acknowledged the invaluable support received from her peers, teachers and family. She highlighted that success is rarely achieved in isolation but thrives in an environment of encouragement, guidance and collaboration. It is a reminder of the collective effort that goes into nurturing and empowering our young people.

Recognising HSC success is not just about academic accolades. It is about honouring the journey, embracing diversity and nurturing the holistic development of every individual. As we applaud the achievements of our Year 12 2023 students, let us also celebrate the values of hope, integrity, perseverance and compassion that pave the way for success in all its forms.

Hailey’s speech is below and is it is well worth the read!

Leone Smyth
Deputy Principal – Teaching and Learning

Good morning, Ms Richmond, staff, students, parents, and my fellow class of 2023.

First and foremost, I want to congratulate each and every one of my amazing peers on our collective achievements. Never in a million years did I think it would be me standing here before you today as Dux of this college. I am surrounded by so many incredible young women, so I feel extremely honoured to be able to speak to you today on behalf of the 2023 Brigidine cohort.

I know you’ve all sat through a fair few of these speeches over the years, apart from our new year 7s, so I will do my best to keep this short and sweet. Especially since I know that the only fun aspect of this assembly for you is the opportunity to review our fashion choices. Trust me, it’s what I used to look forward to. However, I did notice through attending these high achiever assemblies that every dux seemed to repeat the importance of balance and moderation throughout year 12. Admittedly, I never really believed them. I thought – how could a person possibly achieve such academic success without sacrificing some of their personal life in the process?

And so, as I transitioned into Year 11 and 12, I anticipated countless hours of study and revision. But I soon came to realise that my hard and fast determination to do well was wearing thin as I pushed myself beyond my limits. I learnt for myself that it is of utmost importance to continue to allow yourself the time and freedom to enjoy all aspects of your senior years and do the activities you love. For me, this meant continuing to dance, do aerobics, work at my job, hang out with my friends, go to the beach, and most importantly never miss my nightly episode of Gossip Girl – because for real, Chuck and Blair’s relationship was almost as stressful as the English HSC exam.

And so, I stand here today echoing the words of every past dux that has come before me when I say that the HSC, and high school in general, is, in the words of my Geography teacher Mrs Ballesty, a marathon, not a sprint. The HSC is a long battle, and it can feel impossible at times if you’re not taking proper care of yourself. Work hard, put your all into everything you do, but not at the expense of your relationships and personal wellbeing, which are equally, if not more important. Sure, Year 12 is an important year for your education, but it’s also a year of self-discovery and individual growth, as well as one of building memories and relationships. And the best way to make the most of your years at high school is to surround yourself with a supportive group of friends, with whom you can share your successes and your challenges. But most importantly, embrace every opportunity that is presented to you and never take your schooling life for granted because time really does fly.

I know that my fellow graduates will agree with me when I say that the nurturing Brigidine teaching community was integral to our success. Your dedication, passion and knowledge have been inspirational and we are profoundly grateful to all the teachers who have constantly supported and helped us all through the tumultuous journey of high school. Thank you for helping us to grow into the young women we are today – women who will confidently make our own mark on this world. Also, within the walls of Brigidine College, I came to understand and appreciate the foundation of a fulfilling life. Our motto is Fortiter et Suaviter – Strength and Gentleness. This school has strengthened me in more ways than I can count, and I hope that you can all see that by walking through life with gentle strength, we can still make the most of the opportunities we are given.

Finally, I would like to thank the people who have taught us and cared for us the most over the last 18 years, our parents. It is easy to take what our parents have given us for granted, especially when they have given us the chance to learn and flourish at such an amazing school, but their sacrifices don’t go unnoticed. From driving us here, there, and everywhere, to giving us advice, holding our hands and, perhaps most importantly, letting go when it was time; we wouldn’t be the women we are today without your ongoing support and unconditional love. You are our greatest role models, and we are eternally grateful for the wisdom and encouragement you have given us.

To conclude, I would like to congratulate my classmates one more time – we have all worked so incredibly hard over these last two years and each of us deserves to be recognised not just for our amazing achievements, but also for who we are as people of strength and gentleness. I think that Hermione Granger has captured the essence of this message perfectly, “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things—friendship and bravery.” And so, I wish every student in the current Brigidine community the best of luck for the rest of your high school journey. Remember to put your best effort in each and every day, and know that it is the small daily steps, not the giant ones, that are the foundation of progress, and eventually success.

Thank you.

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