At The Hamilton and Alexandra College in regional Victoria, students are supported and encouraged to follow their passions while excelling in their studies.
Year 12 student Olivia Biggs has done both since joining the school as a boarder in 2018.
A recipient of the college's R.M. Ansett Scholarship, she said attending the school provided the rare opportunity to follow both her passions, equestrian and aviation.
Olivia, Bendigo, loves retraining harness horses, so having the school's equestrian centre on the same site as the boarding house was a big drawcard.
"Working with horses that have been retired from harness racing gives them a second chance and living at the boarding house allows me to ride my horse, Grace, every day," Olivia said.
"As well as having Grace close by, I also take aviation lessons, sing in the choir and love playing basketball. When I finish school, I hope to become a commercial pilot and I have chosen my VCE subjects with this pathway in mind. This year will be a little challenging, juggling riding with study, but the teachers are incredibly supportive, and this is an important skill to learn for the future."
Principal Andrew Hirst said Olivia's experience at the college was an example of how the school encouraged students to explore personal interests.
"We seek the best for and from every student and we remain determined that every student develops a strong appreciation for the importance of respect, gratitude, compassion, resilience and optimism," Dr Hirst said. "Learning remains our core focus and centres us on achieving high academic performance while simultaneously providing boys and girls with connectedness in life."
"So, while I celebrate our impressive 2019 VCE results, with the Dux achieving an ATAR score of 99.65, l also promote our Year 9 China experience and Year 10 Central Australia expedition. These pilgrimages enable direct experiences where we put the children into unpredictable situations and challenge them to build resilience, find solutions and put practice into reality. "
Dr Hirst believes the school's small enrolment of more than 500 pupils is another advantage.
"Every student is known by their name and their interests, and our staff and incredible facilities provide opportunities for students to try new and different pursuits. If students feel fulfilled in their areas of interest, they are more focused in the classroom and on their studies."
Applications are open for Academic, General Excellence, Boarding and Old Collegian scholarships. The Academic Excellence deadline is February 7, with all other scholarships open until March 27.