Year 12 student, Cayla Hine, describes BSSC as ‘unique’.

“I’d heard a lot about the college—the independence, the lack of bullying and the opportunities for students to pursue their own pathway,” she says. “I knew after my first day that all of it was true.”

While Cayla has loved the subject choice and the freedom to wear whatever she feels like, the real bonus for her has been the HeadStart Program.

This program integrates apprenticeships, traineeships and work placements with students’ senior secondary studies.

By the end of this year Cayla will have completed Year 12, a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and an apprenticeship. As soon as she finishes school she can start full-time work as a qualified childcarer.

Prior to arriving at BSSC, Cayla had developed a “negative vibe” towards school after being severely bullied over four years at a college unwilling to address the issue.

“The bullying really affected my capacity to trust others,” Cayla says. “Rebuilding that trust has been very important.”

As bad as the bullying was, Cayla reflects on how she has grown and matured as she’s recovered.

“I used to avoid confrontation, but I know now it’s not okay to let anyone walk over you,” she says.

“If you’d asked me to do this student profile interview last year I would’ve said no, but that shyness is disappearing… I’ve really come out of my shell.”

Cayla will always be grateful for the support her mum gave her—and continues to give her.

“She didn’t try to force me into full-time school and helped me change schools once all the bullying stuff came out,” Cayla says.

If she could have a conversation with anyone in the world, Cayla would jump at the chance to meet and chat with with two people she really admires: Barack and Michelle Obama.

“I wonder what the world might be like if he had been able to continue in the White House,” she wonders, “and how the US might have management Covid differently?

“I know people over there and everyone in their family, and all their friends, have had Covid.”

Getting back to BSSC, Cayla first heard about the HeadStart program when she was in Year 10.

It has allowed her to be at the college two days a week and spend three days focused on her apprenticeship, which has been the perfect blend for Cayla.

There are other bonuses too. Students involved in HeadStart are also dealing with formal work environments, so they understand each other’s challenges—particularly juggling work commitments with their schoolwork.

Having consistent teachers—and building really positive relationships with them—is ensuring Cayla finishes her secondary education on a positive note.

“Kris Ellery even shapes my Maths work around my apprenticeship, making it so relevant,” Cayla says.

Cayla’s interest in childcare began when she was still in primary school and her mum began providing Family Day Care.

“There were always little kids in our home and I realised how much I enjoyed looking after them,” she says. “I still love watching how kids play and hearing how they see the world. They have no filter and say amazing things.

“One little guy recently asked me where I sleep, assuming I live at the childcare centre. Another presumed I must have my own children and asked me if my baby was at home.”

Cayla has also been dealing with asthma and eczema since childhood. Dealing with these common, but challenging, conditions helps her manage children in her care who also have these problems.

However, the long lockdown in 2020 really messed things up. She lost her childcare placement because the number of children attending the centre dropped off.

“Losing my job made me realise how much I loved it,” she says. “I eventually sent the manager a video explaining how much I loved the job and once things settled I was able to return to that placement.”

She also plays netball—again interrupted by covid—and hopes to return to Senior’s Country League next year.

Reflecting back over the last few years, Cayla says she’s proud of overcoming the impacts of being bullied.

But I’m also proud of a trip I did when I was in Year 7.

“We went to Vanuatu to visit our sister school for a week and took heaps of school supplies to give the students over there,” she recalls.

“It was the first time I’d been overseas and I was amazed at the casual way kids just walked around the streets and never seemed to get lost. We had so much fun. Unfortunately I drank the water and got really sick on the last day.”

If Cayla could go back to those early days of secondary school, what advice would she offer her 13-year-old self?

“Shoot for your dreams. Just go for it! You’ll be sad if you don’t grab every opportunity and the world’s not going to end if something doesn’t work out.”