Let’s be honest, high school is tough for most of us. Popular cliques, stereotypes, puberty and the pressure of exams dominate our teenage years.
I spent a lot of time from the ages of 10 to 14 trying to be the sporty and carefree person I thought my classmates would like. I was trying to be ‘cool’ enough for the basketball girls and ‘smart’ enough for the clever kids. And it really held me back in relation to how I felt about myself.
I’m a proud Iningai woman, born and raised in Townsville, Queensland. I made a point of getting involved in every school activity I could find. I was in the student council in grade 6 and all through high school, I was junior school captain in grade 9, sporting captain in grade 11 and school vice-captain in grade 12.
Taking up every opportunity that came my way helped me move through high school and all the issues that came with it, including pushing back against stereotypes, keeping curious about my passions and finding ways to develop my leadership skills.
These roles helped me build confidence to talk to and work with different people in the community. I went to school and leadership camps, participated in programs such as Ylead, and over time all these opportunities helped me understand the value of self-worth.
When you’re too busy worrying about what everyone else is thinking about you, you lose yourself, and instead you become what you think others will like.
Becoming junior school captain was the turning point for me. Stepping out of my comfort zone and into a position of leadership was something that I thought would be fun, but I soon realised it put me into a position where the younger kids were looking up to me, and I couldn’t be an insecure person leading them. I had to be someone they could admire and respect. But I had to get comfortable not being everything to everyone. Nor could I meet everyone’s expectations. Coming to understand this set me free.
From that role in grade 9, I began actively taking part in any leadership programs that showed up, including Ylead, ATSIAP, CSIRO's ASSETS program for Indigenous students, and working hard to work on myself. These opportunities assisted me in developing my personal worth and skill set, the more skills I was able to learn and put into practice, the more confident and comfortable I became.
Through these experiences I decided that I wanted to help other young people become aware of opportunities available to them, no matter who they are or where they come from.
Fostering these skills, being able to talk to people and build relationships within the community and making time to advance your personal development is one of the most important experiences you can have during high school. The community engagement and relationships that are built through these opportunities are something that I know changed my education experience for the better.
I graduated from Townsville State High School in 2020, despite a really challenging year and I’ve just completed a five week internship at Origin Energy, thanks to a partnership between Origin and CareerTrackers, where I’ve gained hands-on STEM experience and learned about the broader world of work, alongside three other young Indigenous women. Check us out, talking about our experience on WIN News!
Soon I will start my studies for a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences and a Bachelor of Sports and Exercise Science at James Cook University.
If you’re going through school today, take every opportunity that comes your way, step out of your comfort zone and push yourself to learn and grow. I cannot stress this enough. Developing your self-worth and learning new skills will improve your experiences throughout the rest of your life. You’ll develop skills some adults wish they had.