Three girls with different experiences of school shared very similar messages with some very special guests at Centralian Girls Academy — messages full of hope for a brighter and better future.
Year 12 student leaders Janaya Kopp and Annie Coffey and recent graduate Shania Cole-Presley were chosen to meet the Governor General, His Excellency David Hurley, and his wife Linda on a recent visit to Alice Springs.
Centralian Girls Academy program manager Sarah Carmody was naturally a little nervous the girls might clam up when they met the Governor-General, who is a patron of Girls Academy, but the reverse proved true. “They really just wanted to talk and they were so confident,” she said.
Janaya told Mrs Hurley, a former music teacher, that she would like to become a teacher after she finishes school, but she could just as easily have a career in politics, given how well she conveyed the impact coronavirus had on her schooling.
The Year 12 student lives with her grandparents, who had to move back to their community about 50km out of Alice Springs for their health and safety. Janaya told Mr and Mrs Hurley this created many challenges, not the least of which was the lack of internet reception in the community.
“She was talking about not being able to get on Google Classroom and she wanted to drop out of school, it was all too overwhelming and stressful, and how Girls Academy were still able to support her,” Sarah said.
When a family member came to town to get supplies, Girls Academy staff would make sure they had retrieved all assignments from Janaya’s teachers to put on a USB, so she could continue to work from home, and stay on track to graduate Year 12.
Shania, on the other hand, recently became one of the youngest students to graduate Year 12 and has just started a new job, as a student support officer at a local primary school. The Governor-General was very interested to hear that Shania had been able to finish early because she gained credits through the police cadet program she did in tandem with schoolwork.
“He already knew about the cadet program and was keen to know if she wanted to join the police force and she said she wanted to be a police officer,” Sarah said. “She’s such a great role model. She’s always ready to come back and help us out.”
Sarah jokes that she might have to watch her back with Annie, who came to Centralian Senior College at the start of the year from a private school.
“Annie was a student who was doing all the right things, getting good grades, high attendance but she felt invisible in the (previous) school and they weren’t attending to her wellbeing needs,” Sarah said.
The Year 12 student told Mr and Mrs Hurley that she needed to feel valued, which was exactly how she was made to feel at Girls Academy.
“Mrs Hurley asked if she would say it gave her a sense of belonging, and she said, ‘yes, people know my name and they treat me with respect’,” Sarah said. “And she loves coming to school now, she’s got friends and a support network. She told them Girls Academy has inspired her so much that when she finishes school she wants to work for Girls Academy. Oh no, she wants my job!”
Sarah laughs but she is incredibly proud of the three young women for the mature way they represented themselves, their families, school and Girls Academy.
“We’re like a family, especially our Year 12s, who have been through so much this year. When they left, Janaya said to me ‘you didn’t even say anything’. And I said ‘it’s not about me, it’s about you, they want to hear from you’. It was about empowering them to talk — and they smashed it!”
She said when Girls Academy sent the information home to say the girls had been selected to meet the Governor-General, their families were so excited. “They were saying ‘are you really going to meet him, this is such a big deal’. The girls were very proud because their families were proud.”
The girls even did their best to sing along with Mrs Hurley when she performed a birthday song for Centralian Senior College principal Tony Collins.
“When they left, our girls were lit — they really were shining bright,” Sarah said.
Three different girls with different experiences but all well on their way to fulfilling Girls Academy’s vision: Courageous girls inspiring, leading and shaping Australia’s future.