Year 12 student, Hayley Cummings, often ponders how incredible it is to have the educational opportunities and support BSSC offers.

“I’ve met people from all over the world and love that feeling of connection,” she says. “People’s individuality is accepted and respected… and we can wear whatever we want!”

Although new to the college, Hayley put her hand up to become an Inclusion Ambassador at the beginning of Year 11.

Inclusion Ambassador training involves an intensive workshop where students look at issues across a wide range of diversity areas including LGBTI inclusion, students from refugee backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, International students, and issues relating to disability and mental health.

“I joined because I have heaps of LGBTI friends,” Hayley says. “The Inclusion Ambassador program was a way to gain more knowledge about how to be supportive.

“We’re so lucky at BSSC that students can be open and confident about their gender identity.”

Hayley’s has also been impressed with the range of course options, academic standards and teacher quality at the college.

“Throughout my education people have given me advice about what I should be studying,” Hayley says. “I always thought they probably knew best.

“However, just before I began at BSSC, I did some serious thinking about what I wanted to get out of VCE and realised how passionately I wanted to study media and drama.”

Despite not studying these subjects before, Hayley built a study design based around them.

“I’d never compiled a folio and had little idea how to make a movie,” she says. “I walked into my first drama class as a total newbie who had never set foot on a stage.”

Around the middle of Year 11 it dawned on Hayley that she’d never been happier at school. She wished she’d listened to those quiet yearnings much sooner.

“I’d love to go back and tell my twelve-year-old self, ‘Have no doubts about going full-throttle at whatever you want to do. Take chances and voice those supposedly stupid questions’.”

Hayley threw herself into the extra work needed to catch up, and keep up, as she tackled completely new subjects—a process that has brought some very positive, side-effects.

Already quite an independent person, Hayley says her independence has “blossomed” at BSSC because she’s had to dig deep to make the most of her new subjects.

“Becoming an adult is a big transition and I now feel really well-prepared for the future,” she says.

Hayley recalls one classic experience that nurtured that maturing.

“Kirsten Thomas, my Year 11 Drama teacher, made us stick rigidly to play-making techniques. It drove me crazy,” Hayley remembers with a laugh. “I’m now really grounded in those techniques—they’re second nature. Kirsten set me up for Year 12.”

Like the rest of her cohort, Hayley also spent a good chunk of last year locked down and learning online.

In this shrunken experience of the world she gained new insights about the hard work her teachers put in to support students.

A stand-out for her was Media teacher, Rachel Quillinan.

“It was challenging as a student, but I did better than I thought I would,” Hayley says. “I think I would have been stressed to the max if I’d been the teacher.”

Not only is Hayley happy with her VCE program and teachers, but she says she attends classes with some of the “coolest and most inspiring people” she’s ever met.

She’s also nurturing a growing interest in Surrealism and recently made a surrealist short horror movie for Media Studies.

Given this, it’s not surprising to hear that if she could have a conversation with anyone alive or dead she’d choose surrealist artist, Salvadore Dali.

“His paintings are so intense and I love the meaning I can get from his work,” she says. “I would ask him what inspired him—especially because he was part of a whole new movement in art. How did he find the confidence and determination to keep going?”

Her time at BSSC has convinced Hayley that planning a career on a creative trajectory is entirely possible.

Reflecting on the advice she was given to study sciences or languages, and the assumptions these are ‘more important’ subjects, she points out that the arts and media are constants for most of us.

“Most people go home and flick on the TV,” she says.

Hayley was baffled by the lack of support for artists and the Arts industry during the lockdown, despite the fact that media, movies, TV and online programs were so important to everyone’s wellbeing.

“Encouraging local content is also important for us as a culture,” she says.

Meanwhile, when she’s not pouring herself into her VCE studies, Hayley still finds time for her friends, for a part-time job, for drawing and painting… and she’s recently begun learning guitar.

“I hope to take a GAP year in 2022, but I definitely want to study at university,” she says. “Probably a Media/Communications course at RMIT or Swinburne.”

Asked what she feels most proud of, Hayley nominates her ability to be as independent as she is.

“There are always obstacles and complications,” she says, “but I’ve learnt it’s always possible to get around them.”