Year 12 student, Ella Freeman, took a vital lesson from last year’s lockdown and the many weeks of remote learning.

“I’ve learnt just how fast life can change,” she says, “and I’m more grateful than ever to be able to go to school—especially when there are places in the world where students are still working from home.”

In Year 10, Ella considered various options for VCE, but is so glad she chose BSSC.

“The subject choice and the opportunities to develop as an independent learner are great,” she says. “I would recommend BSSC to anyone who asked me about the college.”

Ella believes the college has not only honed her study and life skills and expanded her mind, but she’s also benefitted from a culture that balances freedom with excellent support.

“I would describe BSSC as an ‘open’ place,” Ella says. “Before Year 11 I had to take subjects I didn’t enjoy. It’s so good being able to do what I love.”

And Ella especially loves Health and Human Development.

“The content is completely absorbing,” she says, “and a great foundation for anyone—like me—aspiring to be a physiotherapist or paramedic.”

Aside from the academic benefits, BSSC has expanded Ella’s friendship group and encouraged her to take chances and make new connections.

“As my confidence and independence have grown I’ve become more willing to question things, speak up for myself and be less worried about what others think,” she explains.

“I think the culture of the college actually fosters this kind of development really well.”

Ella is also half of the duo ‘The Two Ellas’ who won the 2020 BSSC’s Got Talent competition.

While some might only know Ella through her music, she would like to think that her school friends and classmates will have other good things to say about her in the future.

“I hope they’ll think of me as someone who always tried to have a positive impact on other people,” she says.

That hasn’t always been easy, given that Ella’s secondary school years have been plagued by a chronic and painful health condition.

To her credit, she hasn’t allowed her struggles to define who she is, but there is no getting past the fact she’s endured a rocky road.

“I think I’m most proud of just making it through the last six years,” she says. “I don’t want to sound dramatic, but it’s been really tough and my physical health has impacted my mental health too.”

Sometimes frustrated with her situation, Ella admits to having put unrealistic expectations on herself. That hasn’t been helped by some health professionals not taking her condition seriously.

“Being told it was all in my mind, or that I was being hysterical, made me second-guess myself,” she recalls.

“It also made me worry I was going crazy, but I knew it was a physical problem and kept searching until I got the specialist care I needed.”

The impact of not being believed for so long still makes Ella doubt herself, but she’s much better at putting a stop to the negative self-talk.

“No-one can expect to be on top of things all the time,” she says. “Given my situation, such expectations are even more unreasonable. I’m just really grateful for the support I’ve had from my family and friends.”

Ella has also discovered the difference music makes to how she copes. In fact, if she could have a conversation with anybody in the world, she would choose musician Harry Styles.

“His music still encourages me so much,” she says, “particularly ‘Fine Line’. I love how he has evolved as a musician. I’d love to ask what gave him the strength and courage to come out and be himself.”

Football is another liberating part of Ella’s life. For all its rough and tumble, Ella’s enthusiasm for the sport is palpable.

She plays in the forward line for Kangaroo Flat in the Women’s Central Victorian Football League and is already in training for what everyone hopes will be a Covid-free season.

“I’ve been playing for four years and although I need to improve my skills and fitness, I just love the game,” she says.

Asked if Kangaroo Flat is a premiership chance this season, she is quick to respond.

“Yes, we’re definitely in with a chance!”

Looking back over the last six years, Ella sees both the huge challenges she’s had to face and the determination with which she has persevered.

If she could go back and offer her 12 year-old self some advice, it would be this:

“It’s going to be hard—really hard—but stand up for yourself. You know your own body best… don’t let ANYONE tell you otherwise.”