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Cammeraygal High students first in their school to sit the HSC

School captain Pratham Gupta said it wasn’t until remote learning came in that the students realised how much they relied on each other.

“When we were in younger years, we never really appreciated the fact we were the first cohort and would experience the change with the school together,” he said.

Then the coronavirus hit. “You were at home, there was uncertainty, you didn’t have the support we would have at school.”

That period soon took all competition out of the HSC. “We were sharing notes, holding online study sessions, everyone would join in and go through problems together, or how to write an essay,” Pratham said.

“I don’t think we would have had that support system if we weren’t the tight-knit group we have been since year 7. COVID-19 definitely helped us adapt in a positive way. It’s made us re-evaluate, and think, ‘Let’s get through it together, call me if you need any help, I’ll be here if you have a question.’ “

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They’ve also forged special relationships with their teachers, who often filled the void of older mentors in the school environment. “You crack a joke every time in class, there’s not that hierarchy between teachers, principal and students. It’s, ‘My door’s always open,’ ” Pratham said.

There were flip sides to going through school in a small environment. There were fewer parties, for one, because they didn’t have older friends to invite them. And word would travel fast.

“Whenever anyone would get in trouble, you knew exactly who’d done it,” school captain Abigail Bobowski said.

“But we just know each other so well – every week you’re hearing whether someone’s a debating champion, got into an early university course. Good news spread quickly too. We’ve always had that record of really promoting our fellow classmates and supporting them through lows.”

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The students have also felt freer to express themselves, without the intimidating eyes of older students or traditional school values they needed to uphold.

“And because we didn’t experience being trodden on, we couldn’t do it to any of the other years,” Chrisovalanti said. “We never had that culture of respectfully oppressing the younger generations, which has allowed for a lot of inter-year mingling.”

They hope that has created an inclusive and accepting school culture for the years to come.

“I’ve always felt it’s been such an inclusive place. We’ve been able to set that tone from year 7, that intolerance won’t be tolerated,” Abigail said.

And as she sets her sights on the final few days, her nerves are calmer than anticipated.

“With the crazy things that have been happening, I think I’ve had time and space to re-evaluate my priorities. I’m not as worried,” Abigail said.

“I think this year has made me realise there are a lot of things more important than one set of exams.”

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