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Gratitude and ‘happy tears’ as HSC achievers celebrate their success

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Joshua Tamer (centre) with St Charbel’s College principal Fr Michael Sandrussi LMO, mother Mirna Tamer, sister Vanessa Tamer and Arabic teacher Marie Sandrussi. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

New South Wales’ top Arabic student Joshua Tamer worked hard for his HSC result but the high achiever says the support of his school, family and parish community was crucial.

Tamer was one of 128 HSC graduates across New South Wales to gain a First in Course award, topping the state for the subject Arabic Extension—despite it being his weakest at the start of Year 11.

The graduate of St Charbel’s College, Punchbowl, has made St Charbel’s Maronite Catholic parish his “second family.”

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“I think they had the biggest part in helping me achieve this today,” he said after the ceremony Western Sydney University on 13 December. “All of the liturgies and prayers are in Arabic and honestly the reason why I picked Arabic is to be able to immerse myself more in the prayer,” he said.

“So what this has shown me is when your motivations are well ordered—especially towards something good and greater than yourself—the ‘good one’ will provide.”

Tamer hopes to pursue medicine at university but is also keen to continue studying Semitic languages “on the side.”

Twenty-two students from Catholic schools across the state, including eight students from seven Sydney Catholic Schools, received First in Course honours from the minister for education Prue Car at the ceremony.

“Every single student here has tried their absolute best, studied their guts out to get their results,” Car said.

“This generation will probably change their careers so many times in their working lives and they’re walking into a world we can barely understand.

“You’re taking it all in your stride, you’ve worked hard, enjoy the break.”

Lyric Jeanneret topped HSC visual arts with four hyper-realistic portraits. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Lyric Jeanneret honoured her grandparents, who migrated from the Philippines, in a series of four detailed drawings for her major artwork.

The graduate of John Therry Catholic College, Rosemeadow, said news she was the state’s best Visual Arts student this year was “very surreal and exciting.”

“It hasn’t really sunk in,” she said.

“My teacher Stephen Peters planted the idea that I could top the state. He’s going to be so happy when I tell him.

“I pushed that idea to one side and my goal was just to work as hard as I could and I’m just so happy and satisfied that this is the outcome.

“It was definitely a rollercoaster and at some points I did want to tear my hair out, because of the detail involved—and my hands were cramping as well.”

In the background of her hyper-realistic black and white portraits she wrote stories and advice that her grandparents have shared with her and her two siblings.

“They moved here from the Philippines for a better life and I see that in the way my mum works so hard to help my family and to make it possible for me to go to a Catholic school at all.”

Catholic Schools NSW acting CEO Danielle Cronin congratulated the first in course winners for their “incredible achievement.”

“To overcome many challenges, not least the significant disruptions of COVID-19 during your high school years, makes it even more special,” she said, adding that the diversity of subjects also spoke to Catholic education’s aim to provide a broad and holistic education for each person.

HSC high achiever Adam Schon from All Saints College, Casula, with his parents. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Sydney Catholic Schools’ Director of Education and Research, Kevin Carragher, congratulated the eight students from the archdiocesan schools on their achievement.

They included Adam Schon from All Saints College in Casula who placed first in Information and Digital Technology and Jaquelyn Loria of Good Samaritan Catholic College Hinchinbrook who came first in Tourism, Travel and Events.

“Placing first in an HSC course is a remarkable feat that each student should be incredibly proud of,” said Carragher. “Having eight students from schools across the archdiocese place first in a wide variety of subjects is also a great endorsement of the breadth and strength of our system.”

Domremy College celebrates HSC team effort

Teamwork made the dream work at Domremy College, where the class of 2023 celebrated outstanding HSC results.

The Year 7-12 school in Five Dock was among the top 150 in the state, jumping 46 positions to number 103, making it Sydney Catholic School’s third most improved school across the archdiocesan system in 2023.

Principal Antoinette McGahan said her dedicated team of staff encouraged the students to work together and make sure nobody was left behind.

They provided wrap-around support from the beginning of Year 7 to the end of Year 12, with a homework club, targeted interventions and care packs and prayer right up to the last exam.

“These young women are absolutely phenomenal, there’s nothing they can’t do in my eyes and they’ve proved it again and again,” McGahan said.

“And the staff here are amazing, there is so much good will among them because this is not a nine-to-five job.”

Members of the high-achieving Domremy College HSC cohort with their principal, Antoinette McGahan (left).

Krystal Cheers is Domremy’s dux for 2023 and studied Extension 1 Maths, Extension 1 English, Studies of Religion II, Music and Business Studies.

She was so nervous she couldn’t sleep from 3am and logged on at 5.30 to see her marks on 14 December.

“I had a bit of a happy cry and then put them into an ATAR calculator before the websites crashed,” she said.

Her goal was an ATAR of 99.5 to get into law at Sydney University but she reached 99.65.

“My parents were over the moon and I was just shocked.”

School captain Zara Ashley Norel was born in Thailand and she moved with her family when she was in Year 5, knowing only a handful of phrases in English. She was “ecstatic” at her results and proud of her cohort. “All our hard work and dedication has gone into something we’ll always remember,” she said.

Domremy curriculum coordinator Elsa Minadeo said the staff also pulled together over the crucial months.

“And our principal is amazing, she’s invincible,” she said. “She consistently offers hope, encouragement and support and I think that’s really key.”

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