When Year 12 student, Ella Flavell, was in primary school, her mum was asked whether Ella had attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

“She can’t sit still for more than half-an-hour,” her grade three teacher lamented.

“No, she’s fine,” Ella’s mum assured the teacher. “Send her out to do a few laps of the basketball court every half an hour and you won’t have any issues.”

Not only did these regular bursts of exercise work for Ella’s concentration, the school decided to implement them for all classes.

While Ella appears to be a natural-born athlete, she also understands the work required to make state or national teams.

“I’ve learnt to push myself hard and I’ve dealt with disappointments when I’ve been overlooked for a position I believed I was ready for,” she says.

“But I’m a really positive person and I always say to myself: ‘It will come if you keep working’.”

Sport is a huge part of Ella’s life, with netball, cricket and gymnastics coaching all vying for her energies.

By mid-primary school she was already throwing herself into gymnastics and netball, when a physio identified that Ella’s young body was not coping with the intense dual commitment and insisted she choose between them.

“I’m not exactly sure why I chose netball at the time,” Ella reflects, “maybe it was because I loved being the young gun on a team.”

By Grade 5 Ella was committed to the local Zodiac’s Netball Club and had the Olympics as her ultimate goal. Her 2022 aim is to join the South Bendigo A-grade league.

In Year 9 her coach, Elizabeth Taylor, brought her to the Bendigo Football/Netball League. She also confirmed her position as a mid-court player.

Supplementing local training and games, Ella has attended skill-building academies and competed at many tournaments both regionally and in the city.

As if this was not enough, she decided the summers were a little lacking and picked up cricket, playing with the under-18 Kangaroo Flat boys/girls team, for Ringwood at the under-18 premiership league, and in the West Bendigo women’s competition.

Academically, Covid presented challenges for Ella, but was also the impetus to face her procrastination habits.

“I could handle the work, but I’d put stuff off and then rush it, or be late,” she says.

“This year I’m already ahead. I’m checking power-points before class so I turn up aware of the lesson’s focus and ready to extend my knowledge.”

Ella’s continues to use regular exercise breaks as a major concentration boost.

Year 12 is her ticket to a future career in the environmental arena—something that has only just crystallised for her.

“I met with one of BSSC’s Career Advisors,” Ella says, “and confirmed the ATAR I need to give me choices to study environmental-related courses at a number of uni’s.”

It’s not lost on Ella that these universities also offer sports scholarships.

Climate change, loss of species diversity—with the inevitable kick-on effects—and the destruction of glaciers are deep concerns.

“You know, even in my own lifetime I can see dramatic changes,” she says. “We’ve been going to the beach at Ocean Grove since I was tiny. There used to be this huge expanse of sand between the dunes and the water. Now it’s just a narrow strip.

“Barwon SouthWest DELWP are developing a plan to manage the coastal erosion there, but this stuff really scares me.”

There are a few years of study before her career plans materialise. In the meantime, Ella is loving being at BSSC. She describes the vibe as ‘expressive’ and ‘respectful’.

“Here, you can be yourself, dress how you want, and you will always be treated respectfully,” she says. “I’ve noticed my own respect for diversity in others has greatly expanded. I also feel really safe on campus.”

Ella says the college is like a mini-uni and senses she is being well-prepared for tertiary studies.

“My teachers make me want to do well, just to thank them for all they put in,” she says.

As Ella launches into her final year, her appreciation for friends has deepened considerably.

“It was a ‘wow’ moment to realise just how important my friends are to me,” she says. “Having real friends means you know you’ll be okay whatever happens—that’s such an important thing.”

There’s one friend Ella has had since she was around three years old when her family befriended a lonely elderly man and he became part of their lives.

“He was such a beautiful human being and so good to my brother and me,” she remembers. “He would make those little paper boats for us and treated us so kindly.

“In recent years I sometimes felt reluctant to keep up the visits. Mum would insist—and I’m glad now. I regret those feelings of not wanting to be bothered making the effort to keep in contact because when he died in 2019 it was so painful.

“The last thing he said to me was: ‘you are so beautiful Ella’. Gee, I’d love to talk with him again.”

Ella’s gratitude to her parents extends far beyond their teaching her about caring for other people.

“They’re just beautiful,” she says. “Offering guidance and support… always driving me somewhere for sport.”

While Ella is rightly pleased with all she has achieved as an athlete, she is most proud of her recent personal development.

“I feel like I’ve found out who I am as a person—I’ve worked out my major values, who I’m aiming to be and how I want to treat others.”