Taking their own path

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We welcomed back our 2019 Duces, Bronte Coxhill and Tamsyn Lovass, who spoke at our Leaders and Scholars Assembly and shared their journeys and advice to the next generation of senior school students. Below is each of their speeches and words of wisdom.

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We welcomed back our 2019 Duces, Bronte Coxholl and Tamsyn Lovass, who spoke at our Leaders and Scholars Assembly and shared their journeys and advice to the next generation of senior school students. Below is each of their speeches and words of wisdom.

bronte speaking

It is a great honour and privilege to be standing here today as one of Strathcona’s Duces for the Class of 2019.


It is only with hindsight that I have come to appreciate Year 12 for the year it is. Although, yes it is characterised by a lot of hours of gruelling study and stress, it does entail a lot more than that. It is a balance of fun, dedication, friendship, work and a lot of momentous and final occasions. It is a year where you must be prepared to put in the honest hours academically without forgetting that it is also a year that culminates your time at Strathcona.


Whilst I had always hoped to do well in Year 12, I never could have expected achieving the results that I did. Although I was surprised with my achievement, I consider it to be the reward for the time and effort that I dedicated towards my studies. During my final year I was driven by the motto that “hard work pays off”, a saying that I desperately hoped would prove to be truthful. It was this motto that motivated me to work hard, really hard and I believe it was this mentality that helped me achieve the results I did. Although many people argue that VCE is unfair, I personally believe that the system does reward the hard workers, those who are willing to put in the extra time and effort and embrace the challenges that Year 12 throws at them.


Although Year 12 is very much a journey as an entire cohort, I encourage you to take your own path. There is no one size fits all approach to Year 12 as ultimately each and everyone one of you will have your own personal goals and a different perception of what a successful year might look like. Guided by this criteria it is up to you put in the necessary work and effort to achieve the outcome that you are seeking. My pathway involved studying in the library before and after school often being the first there and the last one to leave, watching all the Edrolo videos for certain subjects, going to bed at 9.30pm most nights, enjoying lunch times with friends and participating in a lot of sport. But your journey is likely to look very different to mine and those around you, and that is perfectly okay as there is more than one way to achieve VCE success. Whatever your year may look like, my advice to you is find your own outlet that you can retreat to, something that you enjoy and that allows you to switch off from school. For me this outlet was mainly sport as well as cooking and watching the best AFL team, the Richmond Tigers. During Year 12 I participated in as much sport as possible and although at times it was a balancing act trying to fit study for 5 SACs, GSV Volleyball finals and Athletics finals night all in one week, I honestly do not believe I would have survived the year without it.


My greatest tip to all of you is make use of your teachers, they are a better study tool than any textbook you might have and I can guarantee they want you to succeed just as much as you do. Never be afraid to ask for help as it is those that are prepared to seek extra assistance that often do the best, and this applies to all year levels. I encourage you to attend any extra tutorials and be prepared to organise one on one appointments with your teachers when you don’t fully understand. Ms Herft would jokingly tell our Spesh class that each night she would wait at her laptop for our emails, and I think she can testify that I would send her email upon email with all of my questions. I would often meet Mr Hamilton before Physics SACs to go over any areas I had not yet mastered and I would repeatedly hand in practice economic questions to Mr Lawson, until they were worthy of full marks. I guess I was never satisfied until I had fully mastered the concept or idea in question, and it is this intrinsic desire to continually improve that I regard as the key to success. I am truly grateful for the many hours that my teachers dedicated to help me and the entire Class of 2019 achieve our best.


Year 12 is your final academic schooling year but it is also your last year with those around you, the last year that you will be all be bounded together as a cohort. My advice to you is to make the most of the time you have left with each other and enjoy all of the ‘lasts’. One of my good friends referred to our cohort as a sisterhood that we had crafted, which I think captures the essence of how close and connected you truly become as a year level. The shared experience of the incredible highs and draining lows of Year 12 unite you together, and I think you will find that it will be those sitting around you that make the challenging year ahead worthwhile.


“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.” I encourage you Year 12s to give this year your all and cherish every last occasion as although at times school may seem like a never ending road of assessments and SACs, it will ultimately come to an end. And it is not the memories of that one bad SAC or hours of study that remain but the memories of Mr Pannam’s quizzes in English, the games of hangman in Economics with Mr Lawson, the exhilaration of winning that last House Athletics 4 x 100m relay and the fun of dressing up on Celebration day with your friends.


At the start of the year my Mum told me to make the most of Year 12 as it would go quickly and it is only upon reflection now that I have realised how quickly not only Year 12 but my entire Strathcona schooling has gone by. I can still fondly remember my eldest sister’s first day of Year 12 six years ago, she arrived at school having forgotten her pencil case. Luckily for her it was also my first day of Year 7 and being the eager and organised person I was, I thankfully had some pencils and pens she could borrow. It is hard to believe that this was six years ago and that my time at school is now behind me. To all of you, the Year 7s, 8s, 9s, 10s, 11s and 12s make the most of your days in that blue checkered summer dress as soon it will hang untouched in your wardrobe like mine, as no longer an item that is worn but simply a hanging reminder of your time at Strathcona. 

Bronte Coxhill (’19)

I am honoured to be standing here before you all today, as one of the Duces of the Class of 2019, a year level of brilliant and hardworking girls.

However, tomorrow, I’m leaving this all behind and driving up to Canberra, where I’ll be studying the Bachelor of Philosophy in Science, at the Australian National University, for the next four years. Whilst this obviously isn’t everyone’s dream, it was mine. The thing about goals and dreams is that you can’t always just grab them from where you stand. You have to reach out and stretch your limits. You have to extend yourself. I believe it’s by extending myself that I’m standing here today as a dux and departing tomorrow to follow my passion for science, at an interstate university, in a course few have heard of.

Now, when I say that, I don’t mean to extend yourself by exhausting the textbook of questions and completing 60 practise exams per subject because, quite honestly, most people can’t do that. I certainly couldn’t. I could stand here and talk to you about working hard and promising that the more time and effort you put in, the better you would do. Some of that is what school is about and to some extent it’s true. But what I have noticed is that overwhelmingly, you will simply do better at what you enjoy.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m your stereotypical science nerd, who’s much more comfortable solving equations and playing with lasers in the Physics lab, than I am up here talking. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But maybe you love public speaking, music, drama, sport, languages, humanities, art or writing. No matter what you love, and it can certainly be more than one thing, find ways to extend yourself, and nurture your interests.

Name any science or mathematics extension activity and I’ve probably tried it. Maths Olympiad, ICAS, RACI titrations, Melbourne University Maths Extension Program, Chemistry Olympiad Summer School and so many more. This is how I chose to extend myself, and whether encouraged by Strathy or simply by my own passion, I chased every opportunity I could grasp to foster my area of interest and achieve my best. I would encourage everyone to do this. My knowledge grew, my friendship circle expanded and I discovered even more opportunities.

 Now, after this monologue of me listing some smart sounding stuff, the real question comes down to how to follow this pathway of extending yourself and thus succeeding at school and beyond. There are two main things I would recommend. First of all, really do make the most of your teachers and all those whose role is to help you achieve your best. As repetitive as it may sound, they are incredible and so passionate not only about helping you all, but about their own subject area. Make the most of their knowledge and seek them out. Although conversations do sometimes turn into chats about holiday destinations and formal dresses, if you go in with targeted questions, you will never leave disappointed.

Secondly, something some less than ideal circumstances taught me is that you cannot blame your teacher, textbook or anything else for how you go. The reality is, one style won’t work for everyone, but don’t give up and condemn a subject to being just one of your bottom two. Be proactive and use other textbooks, have a night watching Edrolo instead of Netflix, ask other friends including those from other schools or maybe find a tutor. Whatever method works for you, make the most of the other resources available, that we are so lucky to have access to.

So if something fascinates you, pursue it. Don’t use fear or other commitments as an excuse to let an opportunity pass by. Without extending yourself, you will never know what you can achieve and what you may discover is out there. Let yourself be surprised by the extent of what you can do. No matter where it leads you, to Canberra or beyond, follow your dream, your passion, and you will excel.

 Tamsyn Lovass (’19)