2021 Dux, Travis Pemberton
On behalf of our community, I congratulate our 2021 Dux, Travis Pemberton, who achieved an ATAR of 99.05, putting him in the top 0.95% of all Year 12 students in the State. Achieving a study score of 46 in Chemistry, English, Environmental Science and a 44 in Biology in Year 11, Travis is set to study Biomedicine at The University of Melbourne.
I spoke to Travis about how he remained focused spending his two senior years during COVID-19, and the key people in his life who provided him with support and guidance. I also had the opportunity to hear Travis share his plans for the future.
Travis, your resilience these past two years and commitment to learning have been outstanding. Explain how you managed this during what have been a very challenging two years.
It is no secret that the last two years have been a very difficult landscape to traverse. Going back to the beginning of 2020, my Biology teacher Mr Chen probably helped me personally cope with the unpredictability of the situation by preparing us mentally to be aware and responsive to any changes to our circumstances, even weeks before we were forced into the lockdown at the end of March. The most important thing that has helped me to at least flow with altering situations, is analysing my environment and searching for tools that can help me settle into the new positions that I found myself in throughout the last two years. Whether it be schedules during the periods of remote learning that allowed me to stick to a prescribed routine or finding breaks in classes to briefly talk to teachers during face to face learning to give me confidence and consolidate knowledge that I have been developing over the course of my schooling life, that was interrupted during the course of the pandemic.
What modern learning strategies have proved to be the most useful across your secondary schooling?
I have been actively testing and improving my memory over at least the last 10 years with probably very inefficient methods, most of which likely did not even work, however it has resulted in me maintaining a very sharp memory, which in terms of VCE performance has helped me immensely. I think what Mr McAuliffe and a lot of educators preach about memory retention is advice worth listening to because it makes both learning and completing assessments much easier and allows you to extend your knowledge in some subject areas without worrying about forgetting core crucial pieces of information.
Now that the results are out, what are your plans?
Thankfully, the results have been released a couple of weeks earlier than last year so there is plenty of time for me to relax and consider my university options, offering me time to reset and renew my ambitions heading into further education. Hopefully I get an offer from the University of Melbourne for a Bachelor of Biomedicine as that was the primary goal of mine heading into the last two years. To finally achieve that success will be a good feeling to celebrate over the coming weeks.
With exceptional results come a broad range of options. How will these options help you arrive at your overall future goal?
Honestly, I think that my results have given me quite a headache rather than assisting me with any future decisions because it opens multiple potential pathways and routes for me to explore and consider. It’s definitely a great problem to have, and most importantly it allows myself to choose an option that I will definitely be satisfied with and avoid feeling like I missed out on something. I’m a person with many interests and passions and this final ATAR allows me to choose something that I will definitely enjoy and relish the opportunity to study for.
What have these last two years of extraordinary adaptability prepared you for?
I think that, albeit a stressful and tumultuous time to be completing VCE in, the experience has definitely improved my spontaneous decision-making ability and developed my confidence in my intuition. In the future, I believe that the improvement I have seen in these skills will assist me in being a better leader and role model. A quality like this is very difficult to learn artificially as it requires immediacy in changing circumstances, something that has been experienced with the coronavirus, therefore I consider it a valuable attribute to have attained and I can only view it as something advantageous to both my character and ability to confidently represent myself in the public world. Whilst we can only hope we will be prepared for events like this to occur in the future, having these foundations developed from the last two years can only benefit me in overcoming barriers over the course of my life.
How have your teachers helped guide you and keep you focused during Year 12?
Like a lot of students have probably experienced throughout the year, I had my own periods of feeling like I was putting in work and not seeing results for it, as well as feeling the burden of the importance of my subjects, especially when workloads compounded on each other from multiple subjects. One of the most important lessons I learnt this year was moderation, when I was under extreme pressure my teachers helped me look at my circumstances from an external perspective and allowed me to relax and ultimately maintain a strong performance throughout the year through reflection and interspersing periods of rest amongst my work when the pressure began to rise.
What role has courage and belief in yourself played in helping you to achieve your goals?
The challenge of VCE is primarily and ultimately mental. Aligning both my mindset and my understanding of my capabilities and limitations against what VCAA expects of students like me contributed a large proportion to what I was able to achieve from the curriculum. Being courageous has helped me to realise my shortcomings when new things that I tried did not work, and combining that with the belief in myself to improve resulted in a level of polish to my academic skill that I could not have even hoped to attain without trying new ideas and processes.
What have your Salesian relationships taught you?
Coming into Salesian College as a Year 7 in 2016, I was not a very open person, and it’s something that I am still working on, however the bonds that I have created with people at the College have helped me to develop my confidence and allowed me to share more of my qualities with the world. I’m of the belief that everybody maintains a unique perspective that nobody else can offer, and being able to see this flourish from not only myself but from the people who I have talked to along my secondary schooling life has taught me to be both grateful for what I have and what I am able to achieve, but has also accentuated the compassion and empathy I have felt for others who have been willing to talk with me.
What three points of advice for students do you have to share?
I’m no expert with super philosophical advice and ideas but some messages of motivation or advice I could give, would be to focus on the process instead of the outcome. Once you come to the end of your schooling life you will realise VCAA expects and endorses a specific style of approaching and answering questions, and for me it took a while to adapt, so if you can get a headstart it will only benefit you and make your school life so much easier. You may not see immediate results, but if you can avoid being discouraged and alter your methods to answering questions to mimic that of what you will eventually see in VCAA examiner reports when you get closer to the end of your schooling life, then that’s where you will find your success.
Moving away from results, try to find something that motivates you about your subjects. For me, I decided to do environmental science with Mr Shaw in year 11 and 12 because I found that his methods of teaching were segregated into learning purely directed towards the course and another stream towards interests, which appealed to me and helped to maintain both my focus and my motivation, whilst learning things that I would not have to worry about memorising for assessments. As I have said earlier, VCE is mostly a mental game, and if you can find the time to have fun whilst you are learning, you’re already one step towards winning. Finally, one of the greatest continued pieces of advice that was given to me was to live in the moment. Mr Chow was a big advocate for this lifestyle for me to branch out andprevent myself from overloading on purely academic material whilst I was at school. As much as school is about the end product and what opportunities it creates for life after Salesian College, there are plenty of opportunities at Salesian to gain fulfilment from other avenues, opportunities which if you are smart you will take as they will enrich your life and imbue you with important attributes like comfort and courage, that will only serve to help you in the future. The end result that I achieved at the conclusion of my secondary schooling life does not tell the full story of the things I’ve learnt and experienced, nor does it tell the full story for most of my classmates, and likely, it will not be the summation of your school life either. So, cherish the moments you get to spend doing everything the College has to offer and you will graduate as a better person because of it.
On behalf of Salesian College Chadstone, I congratulate Travis on the commitment and perseverance he has demonstrated over the course of his time at Salesian College Chadstone and during 2021. We look forward to hearing about all of his future accomplishments.