Meriden’s top HSC achievers reflect and look ahead

22 December 2020

Meriden’s top-achieving students have shared the secrets to their success as they plan their post-HSC futures in Australia and overseas. While their achievements, interests and aspirations span a vast range of areas, all girls said the challenges faced in 2020 were lessened by the support of the School community, a universal lesson about the importance of connection that many have learned as the world continues to navigate momentous challenges.

Catherine Wang, one of the School’s thirty HSC All-Round Achievers, was offered not one, but two Co-op Program scholarships for actuarial studies, one through Macquarie University and another through the University of New South Wales. Catherine said Meriden’s community spirit and culture of excellence played a part in her success.

She had some advice for other students looking to attract scholarships.

“I think one of the things that made my applications competitive was a strong element of storytelling,” Catherine said.

“In my application, I wanted to communicate my passion for actuarial studies but no matter which job I end up in – let’s face it, 2020 has shown us that we can’t really predict where we’ll end up – I want to be in a position where I can give back to the community. I talked about how I’ve begun to do that work through taekwondo, particularly this year, having volunteered on a weekly basis to mentor young taekwondo students.”

Catherine competes in taekwondo at a high level and, at the 2019 Australian Taekwondo National Championships, won a bronze medal in the Individual Female 15-17 Years section and took out gold in the Pairs Mixed 15-17 Years section.  

Another young athlete whose passion for sport is a big part of her future plans is Madeleine Whip. The promising tennis player is fielding scholarship offers from a number of American universities.

“I’m very excited about the future! My goal is to be able to play tennis at a semi-professional level at college in the USA while undertaking a degree in engineering,” Madeleine said.

She plans to follow her undergraduate degree with a Masters in aerospace engineering to pave the way to a career at NASA or in the defence force.

Madeleine said balancing sporting and academic priorities is a challenge but she learnt helpful time management and self-care strategies through Meriden’s Olympus Program.

“One aspect of the program I found really valuable was the one-on-one time I had with my mentor. This helped me with goal-setting and staying accountable and on track to achieve those goals and I felt a real sense of accomplishment by the end of the HSC,” she said.

Rising golf star, Belinda Ji, came equal first in the state in Community and Family Studies and said her sport was her outlet throughout her HSC year.

“One of the things that made me successful was taking time away from studying to play golf,” she said.

“Then, when I returned to the books, I felt refreshed and had a renewed sense of focus. Of course, the important thing is that you do return to do the academic work and having the discipline to put in the hours is really important.”

Belinda has received combined sporting and academic scholarship offers from four American universities. She aspires to undertake an academic degree while working toward a professional career in golf. To this end, she is currently training for three upcoming national tournaments as she makes final decisions about her next steps.

Olivia Arvanitis has been inspiring Meriden girls to follow their STEM dreams for years. In 2019, Olivia was a semi-finalist in the national BHP Foundation Science and Engineering Awards. She then represented Australia at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. Olivia came equal first in the state in HSC Biology. Next year, she plans on pursuing a university degree in economics or engineering. Olivia said the best thing HSC students can do to boost their marks is speak up in class.

“At Meriden, the community is so supportive,” Olivia said.

“I felt comfortable asking my teachers questions if ever I didn’t understand a concept and I really interrogated the idea until I was one hundred per cent sure I had a handle on it.”

Christiana Stone is an aspiring speech pathologist who is well on her way to fulfilling her dream. The Meriden student thrived in the School’s language programs and, in addition to placing first in the state in Spanish Beginners, was an HSC All-Round Achiever, having earned Band 6 results in Latin Continuers and Spanish Beginners as well as in English Advanced, Mathematics Advanced, Mathematics Extension 1 and Physics.

Christiana said studying Latin from Year 8 provided a solid foundation on which she could begin to learn Spanish in Year 11 and this, in addition to some extra work she set herself, was the secret to her success.

“To prepare for my Spanish Beginners exams, I listened to the Spanish news every morning and, although I didn’t understand much at first because the pace was so fast and the content was complex, over time, I grew to understand more and more and this was really gratifying. I think my familiarity with this more authentic use of language really gave me an edge,” Christiana said.

Meriden congratulates all its students on their continued optimism about the future and their determination to reach their goals. The girls in the Class of 2020 share the courage to work hard despite many unknowns and their commitment to their academic and sporting programs, even when unable to attend school in person, has been extraordinary. The School community looks forward to seeing the fruits of their labour as the girls make their mark on the world.