When Annie Webb reflects on being 12 years old, she recognises she lacked self-belief.

Six years on, and now a BSSC Year 12 student, Annie would love to be able to say to her younger self: “It’s really important to believe you’re worth it… you need to understand that and trust yourself.”

Annie is now a person who’s much more likely to say ‘yes’ to any opportunity that comes her way.

“In Year 10 I decided to go and live with friends in Belgium for four months,” she says. “It wasn’t part of a formal exchange program, but it was still fantastic and it became a time to take stock of my life.

“While I was there, my host brother, who was younger than me, really challenged me about my bad attitude to school.”

Annie is a naturally curious person and has always loved to learn new things, but she has never liked school much and didn’t realise it was mostly to do with her attitude.

She came back from Belgium inspired to take her education seriously and accept responsibility for her academic pathway.

“It wasn’t that I’d been to ‘bad’ schools,” Annie says, “but I knew I needed to make a whole new start at a new college that I chose myself.”

Three days before school went back Annie rushed through her enrolment into Year 11 at BSSC and went on to discover just how enjoyable school could be.

“These days I give it my all and I’ve learnt this is when the rewards come,” she says. “I’ve also discovered that when I’m learning something I enjoy, I remember it better—so I try to relate what I find less interesting to things I am captivated by.”

Annie is studying subjects she really enjoys—Studio Arts Ceramics, Outdoor Education & Environment, English, Further Maths and Psychology—and believes her teachers are “a major part” of how inspired she now feels about school.

Isobel Houghton gets a special mention, not only for being one of these great teachers, but also because she delivers the subject that has completely captivated Annie—Psychology.

“I think Psychology is so important to me because I’m very curious about how humans understand things… how they learn differently,” she says. “It’s broadened my understanding about human consciousness.”

In keeping with her fascination for Psychololgy, Annie is considering an Arts degree with a Psychology major, but she’s also wondering about a career involving another of her deep interests— the environment.

To keep a lot of possibilities on the table, she plans to make her undergraduate program as broad as possible.

Asked for her ‘Hot Study Tip’ Annie says, “Just keep going one step at a time. Don’t look too far ahead… just keep your focus on the next thing.”

Meanwhile, as she works towards the end of Year 12, Annie describes her remote learning experience as ‘turbulent’.

Although she has good family support and is keeping on track with her work, she finds her motivation dips and peaks—and when a lovely sunny day arrives, well, the temptation to get outside is a force to be reckoned with!

Although the pandemic has put an end to her part-time job as a ‘dishy’, Annie still has plenty happening alongside her Year 12 studies.

The family has 11 horses that she rides and trains—as well as training other horses for their owners. She also has two dairy goats (one of them quite a character: consistently friendly in the morning but not in the evening. Go figure!).

Then there are cats, dogs, chickens, geese and guinea fowls.

Life outside is rich and nourishing and hard to resist when compared to academic pursuits.

However, Annie’s love of the outdoors is not a sentimental ‘isn’t it pretty’ attitude. She is well-informed about the issues presently impacting the health of the whole planet, including her little corner of it.

“Obviously Climate Change is the big problem,” she says, “and I think the pandemic has distracted us from many critical environmental issues.

“I know there can’t be protests because of the pandemic, but there are fewer articles online and in the news too.”

She also notes the irony of Notre Dame burning down and billions put aside to restore it while money for national parks in Australia seems to be spent on facilities for people, rather than directed to actions that preserve the plants and creatures who inhabit the area.

Annie describes how weeds like capeweed, as well as invasive species such as blackberries that are devouring our high country, can change the pH of the soil making it less suitable for native plants. This, she says, has “big impacts” for the species dependent on them.

She believes the devastating consequences of habitat loss ought to be a deep concern for all of us.

“Especially when you realise 80% of our endemic species aren’t found anywhere else in the world,” she points out.

Given that her passion for the natural world rivals her interest in psychology, there is a good chance that Annie’s career—or one of them—will be in this arena.

Annie is also one of the Visual Art students awarded the Standen Bursary this year and has used the money to purchase a pottery wheel, enabling her to create her major art piece for this semester.

It’s not surprising to hear that her theme is ‘Nature’.

“I’ve looked at humans in relation to nature,” she explains. “How we’ve come from it, but set ourselves apart as though we are above, or different, or aren’t reliant on it.”

As Annie talks about environmental damage she identifies so many things to be disappointed about. Yet her approach is fundamentally optimistic and she’s committed to being part of critical change—like those who continue to inspire her.

She has great respect for Indigenous people who have managed the Australian landscape so successfully for tens of thousands of years and who continue to speak on its behalf.

Looking globally, New Zealand PM, Jacinda Adern, is someone Annie admires.

Annie also says she finds many women inspirational and, while she doesn’t think in labels, she acknowledges she is a feminist.

“People might think I’m too young to judge such things,” she says, “but I already believe women are the equals of men and I’m so inspired by the many women out there doing such a magnificent job in so many areas.”