“The thing is that there’s no judgement at BSSC. There will always be someone smarter, prettier or more successful, but it just doesn’t matter.”

So says BSSC Year 12 student, Nissa Wakefield, who has thrown herself into her studies this year—resting on the confidence she’s got this.

This confidence represents a real change of attitude since Nissa first started at senior. She began Year 11 struggling with anxiety—something that had impacted her schooling badly in previous years.

Stepping up to the VCE workload also looked quite daunting as she imagined the year to come. But now she says, “I think Year 11 is like learning how to study for Year 12.”

Important as this discovery is, she also discovered that Year 11 was a significant year for her own personal development as well.

Once Nissa settled into BSSC she found, to her surprise, it was easy to make friends and she realised she really was welcome to get involved with anything on offer. She decided to join the Student Leadership Team and further amazed herself by putting her hand up for an executive role.

“About halfway through Year 11 I started to see really positive changes in myself and began to realise how far I’d come and how happy I was.

“I went from being anxious to feeling I could have a go at anything I wanted to. I loved the change in me.”

Nissa attributes this growth in herself to two influences. One is that to attend BSSC, she must board away from home which brings inevitable extra responsibilities.

She also says, “BSSC’s culture encourages us to be independent and doesn’t treat us like babies. That helped me so much and I feel so lucky I can come here.

“I’d recommend this college 100% and I’m so passionate when I speak about the college to others.”

If Nissa needed any further proof of how much she had matured during Year 11, her acceptance for the January 2024 National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) must have laid any lingering doubts to rest.

During the Christmas holidays she travelled to Brisbane—alone—to meet with students from all across Australia. She heard lectures and enjoyed hands-on collaborations with people who were utterly focused on STEM—many were leaders in their fields.

NYSF also allowed her and many others to discover a fascination with an area of science not previously considered. In Nissa’s case, Forensics. (Equally valuable: she also discovered she definitely did not want to study Mechatronics Engineering!)

The future is probably going to be Chemical Engineering combined with entrepreneurship. Nissa wants to both develop products—such as bioplastics—and then market them herself.

“NYSF also made me realise there must be so much more I don’t know about that is on offer—so I need to keep an open mind.”

This year Nissa is studying Maths Methods, Specialist Maths, Physics, Chemistry and English Literature.

“I don’t have a favourite subject,” she says. “They’re all hard but I need them for the future and my hot study tip is to use your resources, especially the tutor groups which can change everything.”

Nissa keeps a balance in her busy schedule by prioritising time with family and friends, time for herself and time to indulge her hobbies of crochet and sewing—note the fabulous scarf she wears in the photo above.

Asked who impresses her, Nissa names her parents.

“When he was forty, Dad quit his job repairing printers in the city and became a dairy farmer just outside Rochester. Once they had moved there, Mum saw an ad for a hairdressing course and decided to change careers too.

“They have jobs they really love because they were willing to take a leap of faith.”

Nissa says she’s so grateful she was born into a family that loves and cares for her and wants her to achieve her goals—and who clearly set examples of what it means to ‘have a go’.

She is mindful of global issues too and mentions how grateful she is to live in one of the safest countries in the world.

Asked what she is most proud of, she replies, “Of chasing my dreams; of taking every opportunity I can, because I can.”

One opportunity Nissa will be pursuing this year is to apply to be part of the newly-structured Student Leadership Team.

Asked to look back to when she was just twelve years old, Nissa remembers herself as a ‘dibba-dobber’ which she says made primary school “a bit tricky”. She now understands why that was the case, but given the chance to go back and give her younger self some advice, Nissa says she would tell herself this…

“Don’t compare yourself to others. Just because things won’t always work out the way you wanted doesn’t mean you’re not as good as someone else.

“I’d also tell myself that everything happens for a reason.”