What does it take to receive First place for a HSC level course? Of the 75 000 students who studied this year, only 126 could answer that question for you.
Now ask yourself what it takes to compete as an elite athlete. Even fewer people could answer that one.
Is it possible to do both at once? Robert Ciccarelli says yes.
The talented teenager is a recent graduate of Patrician Brothers’ College in Fairfield, Australia’s top ranking fencer in his age division, competitor in the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympics, and as of Monday, First in Course for Automotive examination 2019.
Speaking after a ceremony for award winners where Robert was congratulated by Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell, Robert credited commitment, dedication, a good support network and strong faith for helping him gain such incredible results.
Asked about the stress of exams and receiving his results, Robert said “honestly [I’m] still a bit in shock that I’m here”.
“A lot of the boys at Patrician Brothers did a sign of the cross on the way into exams. I have a habit of taking a moment and asking God for help when stuck on a question.”
In study, as in Fencing, Robert credits his faith as a huge part of his success.
“I always say a prayer and make the Sign of the Cross, it’s a mark of respect to God and my faith which has really helped over the years when things were tough,” he said.
Robert wasn’t the only Sydney Catholic Schools student to receive the honour of First in Course on Monday. The young gun was accompanied by Christabel Chang of Brigidine College Randwick who received first place for Hospitality Examination, and Seamus Connon from Marcellin College Randwick honoured for Design and Technology.
The son of two devout Irish Catholics, Seamus credits his family, upbringing and schooling for getting him to where he is today.
He gave special mention to his dedicated teachers, particularly his Design and Technology teacher, for helping him through the HSC.
“Going to a Catholic school really benefitted me,” said Seamus Connon.
“I had a really good teacher, and he could really understand me and what I was trying to do. That was really helpful.”
Christabel likewise was grateful to her parents and parish upbringing, as well as the support groups and friendships she made at Brigidine College in Randwick.
“I think being in a Catholic school did help,” she said.
“Everyone was so devoted to learn and wanted to be there and do their best.”
Sydney Catholic Schools were full of praise for the success of their students, with a spokesperson saying, “‘First place in a course is a huge achievement and the culmination of years of commitment and dedication to learning”.
“We are especially proud of these students and the great support of their teachers and leaders in schools.”
There was an incredible 22 students from NSW Catholic Schools honoured in the ceremony, up from 15 in 2018, prompting Dallas McInerney, CEO of Catholic Schools NSW, to say how pleased he was to see the incredible state-wide success of Catholic students, while also acknowledging the hard work of all students honoured.
“Students from the full range of Catholic schools – urban and regional, systemic and congregational – ranked highly this year, showing Catholic schools perform well alongside government selective and independent schools,” he said.
“On behalf of the Catholic sector, I extend my congratulations to students in all school sectors for their outstanding achievements.”
2019 HSC students received their results by SMS, email and online from 6am Tuesday 17 December.