When Year 12 student, Emma Hipwell, was at her 7-10 college, Bendigo South East, she thought her future career would in automotive.

Now, a few years down the track, she realises it’s not the job for her.

“I still love working on cars, including my own,” she says, “but I’m glad I worked out it wasn’t my pathway.”

Other work placements helped her explore various possibilities, but nothing felt right.

“I knew the kind of person I wanted to be, but I wasn’t sure of the best way to get there,” she explains.

Once at BSSC, she selected Sport and Recreation and Community Services—subjects that led to a “complete transformation” and the realisation she wanted to be a Phys Ed teacher.

“I’ve always loved PE and really appreciated the PE teachers I had throughout my schooling,” she says. “Here, at BSSC, I had Kara Fox for PE in Year 11 and watching her teach convinced me I would enjoy all levels of teaching this subject.”

Outdoor Education teacher, Sam Gibbs, has also impressed Emma. She names his positivity, respect and support for his students as reasons she sees him as a perfect role model.

“I plan to do a course that will allow me to teach PE from Prep to Year 12 with a minor in either Outdoor Ed or Health,” she says.

Footscray’s campus of Victoria University offers just that course.

Emma is clear about the value of PE—especially in a society where so many struggle with maintaining mental wellbeing.

“Exercise increases the release of feel-good hormones,” she explains. “It’s very important for wellbeing.”

Last spring she joined fellow BSSC student, Katie Copeland, and some tertiary outdoor education students on a multi-day hike through the fabulous Gariwerd National Park (otherwise known as The Grampians).

“There were many highlights,” she says. “The people on the trip were fantastic and we were all there because we wanted to be. Everyone was so motivated to make the most of the experience.

“I particularly remember one day when it was bucketing rain. All my gear, except my sleeping bag, was wet. We were walking along a high escarpment and sat eating wet lunch laughing our heads off at the insane weather. Later the clouds cleared, giving us an unforgettable view.”

Now, nearing the end of Year 12, Emma says the word that best describes the college for her is, ‘positive’.

“BSSC allows you to be the energy you want to be in the world,” she says. “The teachers are selfless and respectful that everyone has their own path … and do everything to help you achieve it.”

Emma also loves the freedom to choose where she studies at the college.

“I love the top level of C-Block right up the end,” she says. “It’s got a great vibe that allows me to get into my work.”

Her method is to type all her notes and then write out the really important points. She re-reads these over and over.

“I have a great friendship group at BSSC and we often study together,” she says. “We actually play a game using cue cards and try to beat each other to answer the question first. It’s not only fun—it’s so helpful.”

She hopes these friendships persist despite the fact everyone is going in different directions next year.

Stress occasionally bothers her, but she’s developed numerous techniques to unwind.

“I listen to music, especially rap, or something you can dance to,” she says. “I love walking or just being outside. I also love going for a drive in my car—that always makes me feel good.”

Her family live on 40 acres, ideal for someone with a love of the outdoors. Emma remembers that Covid didn’t really feel that different because they had so much space around them.

Emma and her dad—who is in the automotive industry—share a love of cars and enjoy similar music.

The family is very close-knit and Emma has strong memories of how much she adored and admired the great-grandmother she only met a few times before she died.

“I would love to be able to phone her up and tell her that I have decided to become a teacher,” Emma says. “She would be so proud of me”.

Emma describes her mum as “amazing” and “the most selfless person I know”.

She was not really surprised when her parents became foster-carers and welcomed two little people into their family for six months.

While the experience was a really big adjustment for the whole family, Emma says they all reflect on it positively.

“It made me realise how fortunate we are,” she says. “I learnt so much about how damaging trauma can be for a child.”

If Emma could travel back in time and offer some advice to her 12-year-old self, it would be this: “Just be yourself. Do you. Don’t let people scare you.”