Planting the seeds of academic growth
In Year 10 he was “off the rails”, not bothering to study or even do homework. In Year 11 he was suspended. But by the end of Year 12 he was one of the highest achievers at Trinity’s Scholar’s Assembly.
Cristiano Farr’s story is a reminder that it’s never too late to turn things around if you really want to.
He was one of three students interviewed by Senior School Head Heath De Lany, none of whom expected to be receiving any scholastic honours as they struggled just two years earlier.
Pat Williams and Matt De Belle, two other IB students who achieved 90+ ATAR results, also told their stories of academic redemption, providing striking examples of what Head Master Tim Bowden said could sometimes be described as “jaw on the floor surprises”.
What changed everything for Cristiano was a tough meeting after his suspension with his House Master and the Deputy Head of the Senior School, Andrew Yarad.
“That put everything in perspective. I realised I needed to work hard for my parents and my family because it’s quite expensive to go to this School. That’s when I started to put my head down and get the best results I possibly could.
“I’m quite surprised (to be here). In Year 10 I was pretty off the rails. I was constantly in trouble. I wasn’t sure if I was going to graduate or not.”
His advice to younger students was: “Maintain good relations with your teachers. They want the best for you, and they’re there to help you.”
Difficult conversations, this time over the dinner table, also helped to change things for Pat Williams.
“I learned the importance of speaking to my parents. Those conversations really helped me to excel. Relations are everything – with your family, your teachers and your peers.
“I have grown a lot since Year 10. My perspective on studying changed completely. In Year 10 I was just note-taking; I didn’t have a clue about different methods of study, such as flash cards and active recall.
“As soon as I found out what worked for me my learning accelerated. I actually wanted to study.”
Matt De Belle ramped up his effort during Year 10 mock trials.
“I was pleasantly surprised to find that a bit of extra effort at home does work. I stayed on that train and tried to change my attitude towards study.”
As a keen basketballer who also had a long commute each day he discovered that structure and consistent effort were the keys for him.
“Be accountable and be prepared for what you have to do each day,” he said.
Mr Bowden said the scholars had not only achieved outstanding academic success but had engrossed themselves in the myriad of sports and other activities available at Trinity.
“There are boys here today whose academic strength has been evident since infancy.
“There are others whose achievements have deeply surprised – jaw on the floor surprise – their Primary School teachers who didn’t necessarily see they would rise to these heights.
“In all sorts of ways these boys have found the path to academic success while maintaining a strong engagement with the life of the School.”
Keynote speaker Alex Connolly (Class of 2015), a second-generation Trinitarian, former dux and School Vice Captain whose father sits on the School Council, told the assembly it was crucial to have clear goals but also to deviate from them to grasp unforeseen opportunities.
He told how he dropped out of law and computer science studies at Sydney University in 2018 to build a computer game on block chain technology.
It was the start of a journey which led to the formation of the tech giant Immutable, which now employs over 300 people and is worth an estimated $3.5 billion, and made him the youngest person on the Australian Financial Review’s 2020 Rich List.
“At Trinity you have been given one of the best head starts life has to offer,” he told the assembly.
“Don’t waste it.”