Year 12 student, Cameron Lee, was ‘flying solo’ when he arrived for his first day of Year 11 at BSSC. He had just moved from Currumbin on the Gold Coast where he had completed Years 7 to 10.
During Year 10 he’d began considering his options for his final two years and decided to get serious about researching what was on offer.
“I’d been to primary school in Bendigo and knew that BSSC had a very good reputation,” he says. “Along with that I chose to come back here because I wanted to get back to Victoria. I liked Bendigo, and I had grandparents here I could live with.”
Arriving for Step-Up, Cameron expected to see some familiar faces, but says it was still “terrifying” because he had not banked on how much they and he would have changed over the years.
So, although he recognised people and was recognised by them, he realised he needed to come to BSSC with an attitude of starting again. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to make new friends.
Settled and happy at BSSC, Cameron felt all his planning and the big move back to Bendigo for VCE was working brilliantly. Now, thanks to coronavirus, he’s finding it hard being in a lockdown in a different state to his mum and younger brother—both of whom have some respiratory issues.
“But BSSC is as good as I had hoped it would be,” Cameron says. “There are just so many opportunities in the college and beyond it.”
Cameron has grabbed a number of extra-curricular opportunities available through BSSC.
He was a successful applicant for the 2020 national Youth Science Forum which was held in January. Although his experience was cut short due to the bushfires, he still had six wonderful—but very smoke-filled—days at the Australian National University, where he met an amazing group of students from around the country, as fascinated about Engineering and Science as himself.
“The Engineering group was my first choice and I know I’ve made friends I’ll keep,” he says.
Cameron is already clear about his pathway and hopes to graduate with Masters of Electrical Engineering at Melbourne University in the future.
So, when a program called Spark Engineering Camp was offered to VCE students by Melbourne University during Year 11, he jumped at it and joined around 120 other VCE students in the program.
Spark Engineering Camp included visiting other urban universities to be challenged by scenarios where groups had limited resources to solve complicated problems. One was a novel approach to paper planes; this one had to be able to carry a pen.
Meanwhile, on top of his chosen subjects, BSSC has been providing Cameron with experiences that prepare him for life. He has completed a work experience placement at CSIRO and joined the Student Leadership Team—which has been a real highlight.
“I really like the way student leadership roles are open so any student can apply for them,” Cameron says, “and the way the SLT is truly listened to by the college leadership including the College Council.”
Cameron was elected Treasurer this year—partly he thinks, because he is very good at maths.
The SLT started the year with aspirations to set up a series of clubs—like universities have—covering a broad range of interests.
“Clubs are a great way to mix people up and get students, who might share similar interests but don’t have classes together, to get to know one another,” Cameron explains. “Especially for those with interests that are not all that common—it can be hard to find each other without a club.”
Of course, these wonderful aspirations will remain on hold as long as the threat of Covid-19 remains. But Cameron is confident that the SLT will find a role during this crisis and pick up where they left off once school goes back.
“I think we need to be prepared to hold events that brighten up people’s spirits,” he says.
One of the other aspects of BSSC life that Cameron has really appreciated is the way the teachers support their students—especially those who are really keen—but also balance this support with an expectation that students will take responsibilities for their learning.
In the light of Cameron’s fascination with engineering and science, it’s not surprising to discover that his favourite subject is Physics.
“During first term it was especially interesting because we were looking at topics around electricity which of course fits perfectly with my aspirations to study Electrical Engineering.
“I also enjoy Spec Maths,” he says. “The topics are all quite discrete and often vary a lot from each other and I really like that.
“In truth what I love is a challenge. I’m bored if I am not being challenged.”
One of the things Cameron loves about BSSC is the way teachers stop for chat and are genuinely interested in the lives of their students.
It’s this kind of incidental contact with teachers that he believes is one of the great losses for students—both at BSSC and around the country—as they adjust to online learning. Like others, Cameron will now have to intentionally seek out some of those contacts.
Luckily for Cameron, as a direct and lucky consequence of his involvement in extra-curricular programs, he is already doing this to some extent.
One of the great outcomes of the Spark Engineering Camp was getting to know Kelvin Liao, one of the Electrical Engineering students at Melbourne Uni and a presenter/demonstrator at the camp.
Kelvin impressed Cameron, not only through his knowledge and academic diligence, but also his willingness to discuss how life works.
Kelvin continues to be a mentor for Cameron—now in an online capacity.
Cameron’s decisions to participate in NYSF, the Spark Camp, and even his courage to move interstate, seem completely in sync with his love of a challenge and clearly, a capacity to grab an opportunity when it arises.
Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, Cameron enjoyed many benefits from his capacity to self-motivate, but admits he was not always like this and coasted to some extent through Years 7 to 10.
Once he began at BSSC he took the initiative to access lots of other resources beyond what was set by his teachers. One he has found very valuable is the Virtual Learning Network.
As Year 12 began and the spectre of Covid-19 began impacting life, he hoped that even if things got really serious such skills would be helpful. Despite the head start, he still finds the realities of working entirely from home daunting.
“I’m not happy doing VCE from home because face to face teaching isn’t the same as learning online,” he says. “It’s different to a classroom atmosphere and vibe—but not in a good way.
“In subjects like Physics, where visual demonstrations done by your teachers are quite important, I think it will be really hard.
However, he expects his study style won’t change because it was always consistent between school and home.
“I’ve also organised time to video call friends during school times so we can keep that college vibe going alongside being productive and supporting each other’s learning.”
But he is worried about his ATAR and the impact should the test structures change.
“I find SACs in test conditions the best way to test knowledge and computational skills along with understanding when it comes to application questions,” he explains. “This is the structure I excel in and have been practicing for years.”
Initially not concerned about his own health—at the beginning his focus was on his grandparents—he’s feeling less confident now the virus’ spread has intensified.
The social distancing restrictions mean that Cameron’s exercise and break-times, that often included throwing a frisbee, kicking a soccer ball or bowling with his mates, have been curtailed. Fortunately he enjoys long walks and they are still in the mix of acceptable activities.
In fact, Cameron has found walking so valuable he reckons a long walk the evening before a SAC is the best preparation.
He also recommends that students take breaks seriously.
“I do 50 minutes and then take 10 minutes off,” he says. “Sometimes I just play FIFA on the Xbox for my break. But I have that break.”
Listening to music while he studies has not worked for Cameron.
“I think it’s a distraction that reduces what I retain, so I don’t recommend it.”
Yet music is not completely off the agenda. Cameron enjoys music and used to play guitar and a bit of clarinet. Recently he’s taken up piano again.
With consideration to issues that have now been relegated to the end of news bulletins, Cameron notes that Climate Change is still on his agenda—even though the industrial slow-down due to the coronavirus has brought some environmental benefits.
“I think people are more aware than they used to be, but there is a real lack of ideas about how we can get to where we need to be,” he insists.
Unsurprisingly, the people who do have big ideas are those who grab Cameron’s attention. Elon Musk and Nikola Tesla are two names that spring immediately into the conversation.
Closer to home, Cameron also has others he looks up to. A quiet achiever he deeply admires is his grandmother.
Cameron says she is “the hardest working person I know” and has shown him just what a human can achieve if they really put in their best effort.
Looking back over the last six years Cameron has learnt an incredible amount—about life as well as his formal education. It’s sobering to know that Cameron’s family moved away from Bendigo in the first place because of family violence.
Things are going well now for his mum and brother, but his decision to move to Bendigo means they are rarely together. Now with coronavirus wreaking havoc, Cameron knows it may be many months before they can see each other again.
Asked what advice he would give himself if he could rewind the clock to when he was 12, Cameron says he’d start by telling his young self to stop taking everything so seriously.
“Strive for what you want,” I’d say. “I was very unmotivated at school between years 7 and 10, but I can see now that floating through life does not help you achieve anything.”
Life has been pretty tough at times, but knowing where he wants to be in the next five years has given Cameron a huge incentive to become his best self.