The old saying, ‘a leopard can’t change its spots’, is debunked by Nigheisha McCurdy who has transformed herself between Year 7 and Year 11.

“If I could go back and give my 12 year-old self some advice, I’d say, ‘be nicer to people and get involved in things you enjoy’.”

These days Nigheisha has realised she has a connection with elderly people, for people from different cultures, and those in the LGBTI community.

“I’ve discovered that really I enjoy helping people,” she says.

After attending Eaglehawk Secondary College (“a great school where the teachers are very supportive”) Nigheisha was initially overwhelmed by the size of BSSC and the crowds of students. Now, with some solid friendships, involvement in the Inclusion Ambassador program, the LGBTI community and the Indigenous community, she is much more at home.

“Academically, I do need a bit of extra help when I’m learning new material,” she says. “And I sometimes get really frustrated when I can’t recall how to do something that I know. I also struggle with depression, but my Advisor, Sue Pickles, has been a fantastic support.”

Nigheisha is hoping to do Anthropology and Asian Studies at La Trobe University Bendigo after Year 12 and will learn Chinese language as part of this.

“I’m already learning Korean, but as that’s not offered at La Trobe, I’ll swap to Chinese.”

Her Chinese studies will no doubt be helped by the fact she is already very interested in Chinese culture, and learning Chinese dance, attending classes twice a week.

“Although I can’t study Korean, La Trobe offers the opportunity to study in South Korea so I really want to take this up,” she says.

Nigheisha’s interest in Korean culture extends to her taste in music. Her favourite bands are Korean KPop—particularly BTS—who she admires not just for their musical talent but also for their willingness to speak out in support of LGBTI people.

This is an issue very close to Nigheisha’s heart, as she came out as bisexual towards the end of 2016.

“It was a very scary thing to do, but my Dad and most of my family are completely okay with it,” she says. “I also have a blog which provides a safe place for me to express my ideas and voice my opinions.

“During the plebiscite I was often ‘smad’ (a cross between sad and angry), but I think this school is particularly progressive and people generally seem more open-minded. I haven’t heard any seriously homophobic comments since I came here.”

Asked what global issues concern her, Nigheisha named missile development and testing.

“They’re going to kill us all because two countries can’t agree,” she says, adding a comment on the closely-related issue of refugees.

“I think Australia is trying to reduce the number of refugees we take, and misleading us about how these people are supposedly stealing our jobs. They have such a hard time.”

In contrast, there are those who Nigheisha admires—like Emma Watson.

“She’s a feminist, like me. “A person who wants equal rights for everyone.”