Year 12 student, Jemma Pearce, loves being in classes with like-minded people and says it’s one of the college’s great strengths.

“At BSSC you can express your individuality which creates a culture of opportunities and welcoming diversity,” she says.

Despite a study load of six subjects, Jemma is still making the most of every opportunity outside of the classroom. She is a member of the Student Leadership Team and a student representative on the BSSC College Council.

Jemma also attended the prestigious National Youth Science Forum over the summer holidays and was a participant in the 2022 Lions Youth of the Year.

“Youth of the Year was incredibly valuable,” she says. “It was a great opportunity to build on my public speaking skill—the format really forces you to think on your feet.”

NYSF immersed Jemma in all things science, maths and engineering and included sessions with Nobel Prize winners and the opportunity to connect with passionate STEM students across the country.

Best of all, it reinforced that a career in science is definitely her dream. Jemma’s long-term goal is to study either anthropology or astrophysics at the University of Melbourne.

“I love research, so my plan is to study a general science degree and work it out as I go along,” she says.

On top of her VCE study load, a part-time job, and her willingness to grab important opportunities when they arise, Jemma is also an avid reader.

She’s a long-term Charles Dickens fan and is presently deep into Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Jemma has long had a deep interest in the Second World War which became the impetus for a short story she wrote in 2019 that was selected for local publication.

“I’m still amazed to think such wars can happen,” she says. “I’m really concerned about what’s going on in Ukraine.”

Despite the variety and richness of her interests, VCE remains Jemma’s priority.

This year she’s studying English Literature, Physics, Maths Methods, Spec Maths, French and Indonesian.

“My teachers all know I’m doing six subjects and are so supportive, approachable and willing to listen,” Jemma says. “When I don’t understand something, I know I can go and ask at any time.”

Jemma is blessed with a great memory and suspects this is why studying languages feels so natural.

“I use cue cards a lot,” she says. “Especially preparing for language orals.

“Physics ‘cheat sheets’ are great and I’m constantly revising, doing old exams, making posters and fresh notes.”

Jemma is also an advocate for practice exams, alleviating exam-day anxiety that can make retrieving information so hard.

“I don’t know why, where or when I learned to love learning,” she says. “I’ve just always been passionate about growing my knowledge.

“Mum tells me that when I was in Primary School I would ask my teachers for homework to do during the holidays.”

But ask Jemma about her early secondary years and she winces.

“I was a bit stupid in Year 7 and the first part of Year 8,” she admits. “I didn’t study much, hung out with the wrong crowd, and got occupied with petty dramas.

“My Year 8 Maths teacher took me aside and said, ‘you’re really good at maths. I don’t understand why you’re mucking around so much’.

“It was a turning point.”

Three years on, coming to BSSC was the next step in what Jemma describes as her ‘growing up’. While the environment suits her learning style to a tee, she is open about the many challenges.

“Finding that balance between staying on top of my homework, getting help when I need it, and still spending time with friends and family is really hard,” Jemma says.

Being the eldest of eleven siblings also makes her Year 12 experience a unique one. Jemma is very close to her sisters and brothers.

“Of course they can be annoying, but they have their own individual talents I admire,” she says. “They think I’m some kind of genius and bring me their homework sheets to check. My seven-year-old sister says she wants to do science… ‘just like you’.

“I try to take their respect seriously and hope I’m being a good example to them. I feel so proud to be part of a wonderful big family.”

If there was one person—living or dead—who Jemma could have a conversation with, it would be the late, great Stephen Hawking—theoretical physicist, disability-stereotype destroyer and all-round incredible human who also appeared on Jemma’s favourite TV comedy The Big Bang Theory.

“He was so refreshing and inspiring,” she says. “I would ask who inspired him and ‘why physics?’”

But when it comes to true heroes, Jemma’s mum is at the top of the pedestal.

“She is just so supportive and always there for me.”