Despite a tough year for students, St Mary's students continue to excel in academics, sport, and music, and treating others with kindness and respect. Photo/Holly Cormack.
Despite a tough year for students, St Mary's students continue to excel in academics, sport, and music, and treating others with kindness and respect. Photo/Holly Cormack.

BRIGHT FUTURES: St Mary’s most inspiring students

IT’S been a difficult year for Aussie students, with COVID-19 forcing kids nationwide to adapt to new ways of learning and completely re-evaluate their expectations for the school year.

Whether it’s in academics, sport, music, or helping others, the South Burnett Times’ Bright Futures series aims to shine a light on some of the best and brightest young people in the region.

In this edition of the series, we interview St Mary‘s students with a bright future and their parents who are helping them get there.

Percy Curtain, Year 9

St Mary's Catholic College student Percy Curtain. Photo/Holly Cormack.
St Mary's Catholic College student Percy Curtain. Photo/Holly Cormack.

A scientist in the making, Percy is a combination of academic and musical talent.

Having played the guitar since Year 1, Percy is an excellent musician, and prior to COVID, took his guitar to church on the first Sunday of every month to play for the congregation.

Looking up to none other than the famous entrepreneur and tech genius Elon Musk as a role model, Percy is in awe of Musk’s ambition and his vision to achieve what was once thought impossible, namely putting people on Mars.

“I want to become an engineer - a mechanical and aerospace engineer,” he said. After a bit of hard work, he hopes to one day design machines that will reach the stars, such as satellites and rockets.

With that said, it’s not surprising his favourite subjects are math and STEM, which luckily for him, come naturally.

Like many St Mary’s students, Percy also engages in charity work, and before the virus hit, used to visit the Orana Retirement home to talk to the residents there.

To be an inspiring student, Percy said it is important to help others be the best they can be.

“An inspiring student makes the younger kids, and the older kids, realise they can always be doing more and try new things,” he said.

“For example, they can learn a new instrument if they’ve always wanted to do it, but couldn’t quite bring themselves to.”

Percy’s mother, Kate Curtain, said when her son puts his mind to something, he’ll do everything in his power to achieve it.

“Everything that Percy has achieved he can credit to himself. He’s done well with his academics and music, and we hope he carries it through into adulthood,” she said.

St Mary’s Head of Secondary, Mandy Sullivan, said in addition to being a “beautiful young man”, Percy’s music abilities are a credit to the school.

Kenneth Davidson, Year 7

St Mary's Catholic College student Kenneth Davidson. Photo/Holly Cormack.
St Mary's Catholic College student Kenneth Davidson. Photo/Holly Cormack.

Even before high school began, Kenneth’s leadership qualities were already being noticed beyond the South Burnett.

Kenneth is part of the Queensland Red’s Future Indigenous Leaders program, which encourages and supports students from the communities of Cherbourg, Yarrabah and Woorabinda, who have demonstrated consistent attendance, improvement in learning, and achieved excellence inside and outside the classroom.

As part of the program, Kenneth said, “we get to go on camps, go to Red’s football games, and sometimes go out on the field“.

According to Indigenous liaison officer Nikita, Kenny has demonstrated strong leadership skills and a great deal of maturity in his first year of high school.

“If there’s a problem in class, or some kids are getting out of hand, he does a very good job helping the teacher calm the situation,” she said.

“He helps the teachers quite a bit, and he is very honest.”

Kenneth looks up to Melbourne Storm winger Josh “The Fox” Addo-Carr. Much like Addo-Carr, Kenneth loves footy and shines on the wing, aspiring to be as quick and agile as his hero.

He said he’s inspired by people who are driven, but also kind to other people.

At Queensland Rugby Union’s ninth annual Indigenous Round, Kenny was selected toperform the acknowledgment to country, which was played to the crowd at Suncorp Stadium via video.

Kenneth’s aunty, Jacqui Tapau, said “he’s very considerate of others, and always wants to help other people”.

She said he’s extremely mature for his age and cares deeply for his siblings and other students.

“He likes being on time and being organised, and is always respectful to his elders,” she said.

“He’s not afraid to ask questions, and always likes to know ‘why’.”

Mrs Sullivan said Kenneth is a lovely young man and the school was honoured to have one of their own reciting the acknowledgment to country at Suncorp Stadium.

Molly McDonald, Year 8

St Mary's Catholic College student Molly McDonald. Photo/Holly Cormack.
St Mary's Catholic College student Molly McDonald. Photo/Holly Cormack.

Molly is one of the top students in her year at school, achieving straight A’s in almost every subject.

With her favourite subject being math, she loves a challenge and is one of those rare souls who find math problems unproblematic.

Outside of academics, Molly also has a creative side too, which she expresses through music.

“I love music. I play the piano and I have a drum set at home,” she said.

The daughter of a farmer, Molly is passionate about animals and wants to be a vet or a marine biologist when she finishes school.

She looks up to her sister, Bridget, who was previously school captain at St Mary’s and is now in her second year of university doing primary school teaching. Inspired by her older sister, Molly is also considering primary school teaching as an option after graduating.

Molly said an inspiring student is someone who helps others when they are down, and is lucky enough to witness this from her own friendship group every day.

“Molly is very kind, caring and thoughtful,” said Molly’s mother, Sharon McDonald.

“She loves animals and is very good with them. It’s like she has a sixth sense with them.“

A caring person, Sharon said Molly hates to see people being excluded, and if she witnesses someone feeling down or sitting alone, she’ll take it upon herself to keep them company.

According to Mrs Sullivan, Molly is very academic and a lovely young lady, and was even chosen by the school to give tours of the grounds.

Lannah Sowden, Year 11

St Mary's Catholic College student Lannah Sowden. Photo/Holly Cormack.
St Mary's Catholic College student Lannah Sowden. Photo/Holly Cormack.

An incredibly hard working student, Lannah has already marked a path to her future career as a beauty therapist. Launching into work experience at Katrina’s in Kingaroy, Lannah’s hard work paid off when she was offered a traineeship.

“I just didn’t stop working all week and by the end, I had a traineeship,” she said.

“I’m working toward my diploma at the moment. I can do manicures, pedicures, waxing – quite a lot considering I only started in December.”

While beauty was always an interest, beauty therapy came out of the blue.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do before that. Everything just fell into place,” she said.

Lannah said she is inspired by young entrepreneurs like Kylie Jenner, who at such a young age has created a beauty empire.

“She’s just so young and she’s done so much. Her business is so successful in the beauty industry.”

Lannah also likes to remind others that you do not need to have your life planned out to the last detail, and sometimes everything just falls into place.

According to Lannah’s mother, Shannon Sowden, she is “extremely independent, strong willed, and strong minded“.

“If she feels there is something wrong, she’s not afraid to step in and give her opinion when she thinks it’s needed.”

“We’re very very proud of her. Wherever she goes, she’ll make a difference and she’ll be heard.”

According to Mrs Sullivan, the school received excellent feedback from Katrina’s about Lannah’s efforts during work experience.

“She’s a lovely young lady as well, she’s just beautiful. On a leadership camp we had a few weeks before the end of last term, she was right in there, wanting to be part of it.”

Shonae Walker, Year 12

St Mary's Catholic College student Shonae Walker. Photo/Holly Cormack.
St Mary's Catholic College student Shonae Walker. Photo/Holly Cormack.

Having been a dancer since the age of four, it’s no surprise Shonae is St Mary’s dance captain.

“We have a performance team and I’m the captain of that, and we do performances at assembly sometimes, or celebration of the arts. We haven’t been able to this year, but we sometimes go away to do competitions as well.”

This has included the Kingaroy Eisteddfod, as well as the Get the Beat and Rumble competitions in Brisbane.

In her limited spare time, Shonae also teaches little ones to dance, and said it is important to be patient and kind with her younger students.

Shonae often looks to other dancers for inspiration, particularly when they don’t have much experience.

“It’s amazing that, whatever you throw at them, they’re always willing to give it a go,” she said.

“Even when they’re scared, they always do it to the best of their ability and they work so hard.”

According to Shonae’s father, John Walker, “you’ve got to see her dance to know who she is”.

“She’s a hard worker. When she dances you can see her dedication. She believes in excellence,” he said.

“There’s no doubt I’m proud of her. What you see is what you get.”

Mrs Sullivan said “Shonae is a brilliant dancer and she’s great academically, and she’s just all round a really lovely young lady”.

Kyron Clegg, Year 12

St Mary's Catholic College student Kyron Clegg. Photo/Holly Cormack.
St Mary's Catholic College student Kyron Clegg. Photo/Holly Cormack.

Kyron is a creative, outdoorsy student with a talent for unconventional sports.

“I do powerlifting and speedway racing. For powerlifting, my biggest achievement was second place when I went to Brisbane last month, and I’ve just started speedway,” he said.

Kyron discovered his hidden strongman abilities during a powerlifting competition at Conquer Fitness in Kingaroy.

“The judge, he’s from Brisbane, he saw how I performed and picked up after that,” he said.

When it comes to the speedway, Kyron was inspired by his uncle, who’s been racing for nearly 40 years.

Aside from his budding sporting career, Kyron is school captain and does a lot of work with the preps.

“We sit with them, go to lunch with them, that sort of thing,” he said.

Kyron’s mother Tracey Clegg said “he’s a good kid who’ll do anything for anyone“.

“All his family are very proud of him, especially this year with everything that‘s going on. But the kids have all stuck together, making sure everyone is ok,” she said.

Coaching two junior football teams, Tracey said Kyron is amazing with the little ones, and will always put 110% into anything he puts his mind to.

“He’s a really nice young man, and does a lot of work with the younger students,” Mrs Sullivan said.

“I know that he powerlifts and races as well, so he’s got quite a few bits and pieces going on.”

Elizabeth Watson, Year 12

St Mary's Catholic College student Elizabeth Watson. Photo/Holly Cormack.
St Mary's Catholic College student Elizabeth Watson. Photo/Holly Cormack.

Elizabeth has a deep and genuine passion for helping others, and along with Kyron, puts a lot of time and effort into supporting younger students.

Elizabeth is a very proactive school captain and is always coming up with ideas to make school a fun and happy place for those around her.

“One thing I’m particularly proud of is the ‘colour my world’ project, which the Year 12’s did together,” she said.

“We wanted to add a legacy, adding to the school, and leaving something behind. We chose the tuckshop area to paint the big poles, just adding a splash of colour to lift the spirits and make people happy,” she said.

Elizabeth came up with the idea and recruited a group of year 12 volunteers to help sand and paint over the course of two afternoons, painting each pole a different colour.

The bright and cheerful 'Colour My World' project at St Mary's Catholic College. Photo/Elizabeth Watson.
The bright and cheerful 'Colour My World' project at St Mary's Catholic College. Photo/Elizabeth Watson.

When she leaves school, Elizabeth hopes to venture into health and education, with psychotherapy and midwifery in mind - so long as she is helping others.

Elizabeth said she’s inspired by people who are willing to “put themselves out there” and “give new things a go”, and believes that an inspiring student should always make themselves available to assist others whenever they need help.

Elizabeth’s mother, Rebecca Watson, said her daughter is is an incredibly kind and caring person, who has put a great deal of effort into helping other students.

“She’s a people person. She’s very kind and supportive to other students,” she said.

Rebecca said these qualities have guided Elizabeth to pursue a career in assisting others through health care or education, and her hard work has already secured her a spot with Duchesne College at the University of Queensland.

“Elizabeth is a great school captain. She has initiative and wants to help,” Mrs Sullivan said.

“Sometimes you get captains who just sit back, but not Elizabeth. She has great relationships with the other students and the preps love her.”

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