Just imagine completing your entire 13 years of schooling without being able to hear or speak directly to any of your teachers or classmates.
All instruction delivered via an interpreter and exams undertaken in your second language.
Such has been the experience of Caroline Firus, who in 2020 not only completed her VCE studies, but achieved the honour of Dux at Swifts Creek P-12 School, with an impressive ATAR of 84.90.
Caroline has been profoundly deaf since birth, and is the first such student to complete her schooling at Swifts Creek.
In an additional amazing achievement for the Firus family, Caroline is now the sixth child to achieve school Dux at Swifts Creek, dating right back to her oldest brother in 2005.
In a recent article in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper, principal Robert Boucher, said of Caroline “She’s courageous, she has a kind disposition, she’s extremely joyous... the fact that she sat exams is a success full stop”.
In a difficult year for all year 12 students, Caroline said an extra challenge for her was the mandate for masks to restrict the spread of COVID-19.
“I found it very difficult and stressful to interact with people due to mandatory wearing of face masks as this prevented me from lip reading and understanding facial expressions,” Caroline said.
Caroline achieved some excellent scores in her subjects, most notably gaining the highest score in the entire state in the VCE Auslan (Australian sign language) subject, a class she had to complete remotely via the Victorian College for the Deaf.
In achieving this result Caroline outscored several deaf students who come from families with deaf parents, meaning they have communicated their entire lives in Auslan as their main language, while Caroline is the only one in her family with a hearing impairment.
Caroline aims to attend Monash University in 2021, and ultimately become a teacher of the deaf and an advocate for the deaf community.
Caroline wishes to acknowledge all the work of her teachers over the years, the school leadership, and her classmates and friends for their help with her education and school experience.
Particular mention must be made of her mother, Halina, who in the absence of any trained experts in the area has acted as Caroline’s aide and interpreter between English and Auslan since her later primary school years.
While clearly deserved plaudits must be given to Caroline, Swifts Creek P-12 School is also proud of the outcomes of all students who managed to complete their studies in the very challenging year that was 2020.
While several students elected to go unscored due to the many additional challenges of the year, all students who saw the year through successfully gained either their VCE or VCAL certificates.
The other students that undertook year 12 are looking at a range of pathways in 2021, including completing further studies at TAFE, seeking apprenticeships, directly entering the workforce, and taking a gap year before looking to take up further education at university or TAFE in coming years.
Despite being such a small school, Swifts Creek P-12 School is pleased to be able to cater for a diverse range of students and help them move onto the next chapters of their lives.
Caroline’s achievements are clear evidence of the success that all students can achieve with the right attitude, efforts, and support.
Working with students to help them complete their schooling and find and pursue the right pathway for themselves, while enabling them to be the best they can be in the complexities of the current world, is a challenge the school continues to address.
* Caroline Firus