Moree drama teacher Nora Carrigan impressed by success of recent Moree Secondary College graduates

Nora Carrigan (third from right) caught up with former Moree Secondary College students Celine Depczynski, Liam Bruno, Bernadette Quirk, Luke Cubis and Ben Clark.
Nora Carrigan (third from right) caught up with former Moree Secondary College students Celine Depczynski, Liam Bruno, Bernadette Quirk, Luke Cubis and Ben Clark.

“You’re a scribe! Write the article yourself!” That was the comment from our mayor of Moree, Katrina Humphries as we chatted over the counter at her seafood eatery, Fishabout on the southern side of the town.

I had just had lunch with Bernadette Quirk, a former drama student of mine who had recently been awarded an Auscott Scholarship to study Environmental Science at Newcastle University. This entails an annual allowance of $11,500 for as long as she studies full time, so she was naturally excited and full of stories about the year ahead for her and what her classmates and friends were doing.

So impressed with Bernadette’s success (she came fifth in the state in Primary Industries) and the reports of other young people who had completed their secondary education in Moree that I trotted over to Katrina, with the express intention of requesting that she could ‘press a button’ or ‘click a finger’ and have an article written so the world can see these wonderful young lives emerging from the families and schools of Moree. After discussing solutions for a variety of issues, she quipped as only Katrina can, “You’re a scribe! Write that article about our young people yourself!”

The academic year was starting so I considered myself fortunate to catch up with five young such people as they embarked on their new and exciting schedules.

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There was Ben Clark who is off to UNE to study accountancy. Throughout his pre to year 10 years at St Philomena’s Moree, he enjoyed his maths so in year 11 and 12 at Moree Secondary College, C and W Partners Accountants gave him a traineeship. This involved missing one day a week from school. Lessons missed from school were caught up within 24 hours online or directly from dedicated teachers.

He says the professional passion of the accountants at C and W Partners was contagious and support from family and staff at school was inspirational. The reference he then got from C and W Partners was a great advantage in acquiring a cadetship with another Moree accounting firm, Sutherland Reid and Farrer.

His ‘out of school work’ at KFC has given him a headstart and an easy transfer in the company to Armidale. The close proximity to school and his places of work was a major advantage in what he was able to achieve

Then there’s Luke Cubis who at the 2016 Moree Secondary College graduation won a string of awards in history and maths/science. I just assumed when he had finished his gap year working at Dippers Hardware Moree that he would be pursuing a university career, but not so. He said he wasn’t sure what tertiary studies to take so while he’s working at Dippers he’s following a two-year Certificate 3 in retail. He’s done so well that the management is happy for him to continue to study a Cert 4.

His family, knowing how shy he was, wondered how he would find working with the general public but to their pleasant surprise, Luke has thrived. In his words, he’s decided on this direction “to obtain a general qualification whilst also gaining valuable, real world job experience” which he believes will prove “a valuable asset regardless of whatever work or higher education-related ventures” he will eventually undertake. He found the staff at St Philomena’s in his junior secondary and Moree Secondary College in his year 11 and 12 “more than willing to go out of their way to help”. In year 11 and 12 teachers were ready to help in “out of school hours and even weekends”.

Luke is also impressed with the Moree business and general community who are continually prepared to pitch in and assist local schools with things like work placement, fundraisers, working bees and the like, which creates a sense of belonging to students, especially in their adolescent years.

Another one of these young people is Liam Bruno who has decided not to follow his brother to university but rather work in his parents’ Moree Freight Business and save for a number of possibilities. Throughout his secondary years until the end of year 11 Liam was a keen squash player. Happy to be coached by his father, John, who Liam says “is a really good coach helping my brother and me with everything”, he played in fixtures all over the central west and beyond in places like Orange, Dubbo, Parkes and Sydney.

“Meeting so many great people” was the highlight of the fixtures. Working on the delivery around town this year is keeping him fit and learning heaps from what he’s observing in so many of the businesses to whom he is delivering. At school, Liam appreciated the helpful tutorial groups and says that “the teachers were very engaged and always willing to help”.

The youngest of a family of five, Celine Depczynski is in her gap year after graduating from Moree Secondary College in 2017. Because she wants to study and then get a job working with people so she can make a difference, a career in teaching is a possibility.

With this in mind, she considers herself fortunate to work this year at her old school, St Philomena’s Moree where she was school captain in year 10 and is now working with junior primary in their MiniLit Program and finding it very fulfilling. She wants to do a double degree in Arts and Science followed by a Diploma in Education.

Keenly aware of her Polish heritage she is presently working an extra job at Moree Discount Pharmacy to pay for her first visit to Poland later this year.

Celine considers the highlight of her secondary years as the five months she spent as an exchange student in Sweden in her year 11. Her decision to apply for an exchange scholarship began in year 10 from her own initiative which she describes as a real “epiphany” and then given great encouragement by her family. The support she received from the staff at Moree Secondary College when she returned from Sweden was invaluable. She found “making lifelong friends” from all over the world, and being immersed in another language, were the key issues she benefited most.

In return, in year 12 Celine’s family hosted a young Argentinian student, Alejandro who attended year 11 at Moree Secondary College and later proudly showed him around some of our national beauty spots.

She found the dedication of her teachers in year 12 as outstanding. In her words, “There is no doubt that if a student wants to succeed in Moree, they will because they have a huge group of talented teachers to offer their expertise. They give up countless hours of their own time...” These sentiments echoed throughout all five of these young people.

And finally back to my former drama student, Bernadette who faithfully turned up to my speech and drama classes in her primary and early secondary years and then went on to perform with the Moree Arts Council in their production of the melodrama, The Red Barn and Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. She says that the friends she made while involved in these productions became well-respected colleagues and the people in the Moree community who would stop her in the street to inquire about how she was going and offer her kind gestures were in her words, “priceless”.

She’s a born leader being elected as school prefect in year 10 at St Philomena’s and school captain in year 12 at Moree Secondary College. She found the dedication of teachers who would give their time before and after school, weekends and even holidays to help her and her peers “a really humbling experience”. She would like to see local high dchools held in higher regard. Yes, Moree Secondary College has its issues but she asks, “What school is perfect?” From her peers to the office staff, through to the administration they all contributed to make the school a wonderful place.

She says the choice of studying Environmental Science is a natural “follow-on” from the attitudes and values her parents, David and Shayne instilled in her and her three older siblings. Living in a rural town like Moree and seeing such a variety of rural professions inspired her as well.

Every family goes through a time of decision making on what is best for each of their children. As we know many of our young people go away to board as my husband, Marty and his family did many years ago. On the other hand there are many children whose families, for a variety reasons decide to send their children to local secondary schools. Moree offers great extra-curricular opportunities in our brass, pipe and ukulele bands, acquiring flying lessons, art lessons, two choirs, a myriad of sporting clubs and more. I know, from talking among a number of my ‘more mature-age’ friends, how happy we are to see our young people working, studying and participating in all sorts of new ventures.

Finally, the common thread in these five young people is their gratitude to their families, schools and the wider Moree community. This thankfulness, as well as being personally beneficial, is a fascinating state of mind and one that seems to have been fostered and nurtured in many of our rising Moree stars.

Writing this article has been such an enriching experience that I’m very thankful Mayor Katrina threw the ball back into my court and as a resident of the Moree district I’ve had the opportunity to interact with these five young people who are off to such a promising start in life and whose potential is unlimited. I wish them all the best.