Year 12 student, Brianna O’Bryan, is pleased she chose to enrol in a Unit 3-4 subject as part of her Year 11 study program.

“I thought it was a big step-up from Year 10 to Year 11—but Year 12 is another level altogether, so it’s great to have one subject completed.

She would definitely recommend BSSC and says she has really connected with her teachers.

“Last year Cass White was a legend when I was studying Year 12 Psychology,” Brianna says. “My Coordinator, Kendall, is fantastic too, but all my teachers have been really supportive.

“They let you know you can talk to them about anything—even if it’s not directly school related.”

Brianna says being at BSSC has increased her independence.

“I was one of those people who always tried to fit in with everyone else and wouldn’t make a decision without asking someone else what they thought,” she explains. “Then I’d be second-guessing the decision after I’d made it!

“These days I’m more determined to go the way I know is best for me. I’ve had to learn it’s okay to be a bit selfish if you want to own your own life.

One of the biggest learnings for Brianna is that grades aren’t everything.

“It’s so important to keep a balance and know that doing your best is enough,” she says. “It’s been a gradual process—no sudden lightbulb moments—but I can see I’ve actually come a long way in the last 18 months.”

Brianna says she still struggles to make a decision that might not benefit someone else, but is committed to keep on developing her independence.

Her capacity for sympathy and empathy is leading her towards a future in one of the helping professions. She’s considering social work, psychology, or even school wellbeing advisor.

“There are a number of ways to get there via either TAFE or university,” she says.

In the meantime, Brianna is working at the Bendigo Bank as a part-time Administrative Support Officer and really enjoys her role.

BSSC accommodated her timetable to make space for eight hours at the bank.

Brianna’s ‘hot study tip’ is to use lots of visuals—cue cards, mind maps and anything else you can stick on a wall. She also recommends using summary books.

“I have a notebook allocated to each subject, so when I’m preparing for SACs or exams all the really important points are there,” she explains. “I don’t have to freak out wading through tons of notes. It’s so much more efficient.”

Brianna is one of the lucky people who had quite a positive experience of Covid lockdowns. Her capacity to manage her own learning grew once she adjusted and she was soon thriving.

“I realised doing maths in the morning was the best time for me,” she says “I also looked after my wellbeing better during the lockdowns. My sister walks most mornings and during lockdown I started going with her.”

For Brianna, the hardest part was the social side.

“Not being able to spend time with friends was awful, but we’ve picked up where we left off—which usually means going out for dinner or getting together at someone’s place.”

It’s no surprise that family and friends are top of the list when it comes to things Brianna is grateful to have in her life.

Music is another.

“As someone whose thoughts tend to be either stuck in the past or thinking about the future, listening to music grounds and focusses my mind on the present,” Brianna says.

“I’ve found it’s really effective when I’m studying—the right piece at the right volume blocking unwanted noise but not distracting.”

A fan of Queen and Bon Jovi, Brianna loves “all the old stuff” from the 70s and 80s that her parents enjoy too—along with the US Indi band AJR.

“AJR sing positive songs about sadness and hard times,” she says. “I know that sounds weird, but it’s pretty encouraging.”

Asked who she would love to have a conversation with (alive or dead), Brianna chooses both Freddy Mercury and Emma Watson.

“I think someone like Freddy would have been easy to chat to,” she says. “I’d ask him what motivated him and what helped him not to care what other people thought.”

Emma Watson impresses Brianna as being equally unaffected by others’ opinions.

“She’s also confident and willing to speak out on issues she’s passionate about. I’d ask her what she considers the most important life lesson.”

Looking back over the last six years, Brianna would love to go back and give her 12-year-old self some firm advice.

“Don’t be a ‘people pleaser,” she’d tell her. “It’s a bad habit that is really hard to break out of and can take over any decision you try to make. It really doesn’t matter what other people think about you. Your decisions need to prioritise your needs over the wants of others.”

Brianna is most proud of never allowing her wheelchair to be a barrier to a great life.

“My mum works in a primary school and when she hears kids making up all kinds of excuses as to why they can’t do PE she can’t quite believe it,” she says.

“Being in a chair is not a reason to pity me. In fact, when people pity me it reminds me I have a condition.

“I just want to be treated for who I am; a person just like you.”