A former student of St Scholastica’s College Glebe in Sydney is one of three recipients of the 2010 Brother John Taylor Memorial Prize which recognises students who have overcome significant disadvantage to achieve outstanding results in the NSW High School Certificate.
Georgia Cranko, who graduated from St Scholastica’s last year, received the award during a ceremony at NSW Parliament House on March 23, 2011.
In presenting the awards, Chief Executive of the NSW Board of Studies, Carol Taylor, paid tribute to the award recipients, their families and teachers.
“The HSC is a challenging prospect for all students and we are all proud when students work hard and achieve excellent results. To excel at that level while also dealing with a serious disability or illness is all the more remarkable,” she said.
“These students have shown amazing fortitude and determination. They and their families should be rightly proud of both their achievements and the example they have set for us all.”
When Georgia heard she was receiving the Brother John Taylor Prize she felt very emotional, honoured and humbled.
“I couldn’t really grasp the magnitude of it, let alone think of myself as having ‘overcome adversity’,” she said.
“Yet, actually having my struggle through the HSC acknowledged in this way has forced me to look at how far I have come and realise how much willpower it took – not only mine, but my teachers’, parents’ and friends’ – to complete it.
“I feel it marks such a celebration of the last four years, all the love, support, courage and the tears; it makes it all worth it.”
For Georgia, who lives with cerebral palsy, right hemiplegia and severe oral dyspraxia, St Scholastica’s was a very supportive learning environment and wonderful community.
“Just contemplating this [thought] conjures up a visceral feeling of gratitude,” she said.
“Particularly in the last year of my HSC, all my teachers set aside time to work with me individually, to make sure I was keeping up and to just make sure I was okay.”
Georgia said it was her teachers’ unwavering support and belief in her intellect and ability to succeed that ultimately motivated her to continue her education.
“They all are so accepting and, what really still warms my heart, is the fact that they absolutely manage to look past my disability, not let it interfere with how they relate to me and they always made an effort to include me in class discussions.”
Georgia’s teachers were overwhelmed by the determination, courage, generosity, sense of humour and tenacious independence she demonstrated during her HSC studies.
“Georgia approached school and her studies with great courage and overcame adversity tackling each day as a new challenge,” said Loretto Richardson, Principal of St Scholastica’s.
“As she became more comfortable at St Scholastica’s she was able to relax and make friends with the girls. They took her to their hearts and it was a truly wonderful experience to see her with groups of students laughing and communicating at recess and lunchtime.”
Loretto also acknowledged Georgia’s enthusiastic involvement in the school’s social justice programme, saying it was a measure of her ability to move beyond herself and her own difficulties and support others in need.
Georgia has a passion for the creative arts and describes herself as a compulsive writer. She received a government grant to develop her HSC Society and Culture project into a multi-media performance which was presented last December at the Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville, Sydney.
“I have always loved writing. It is a way I can make sense of and work though things I write about my humanity and my relationship to my body,” explained Georgia.
“In this way, writing gives me a voice and not only helps me to understand my own thoughts and feelings, but it gives other people insight and helps them to understand as well.
“Writing poetry has always been something that came very naturally to me, because not being able to verbalise my thoughts makes it necessary to convey meaning in a concise and simple way, just as poetry does. My poems seem to have great emphasis on the essence of humanity, such as love, pain and uncertainty, the emotional thread that connects us all.”
For now, Georgia is doing a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) degree at the Australian Catholic University and continuing her work as an emerging artist, building an interdisciplinary practice combining writing, photography, film-making and performance.
She doesn’t have a clear idea of what she wants to do with her degree, but recognises “psychology is very applicable to everything”.
“I only know that I want to make a change in the world for the better, however small and insignificant that is,” she said.
The Brother John Taylor Memorial Prize was introduced by the NSW Board of Studies in 1993 to commemorate the contribution Christian Brother, John Taylor, made to education as a principal, Executive Director of Catholic Education and as a valued member of education boards, including the Board of Studies NSW, until his death in 1993.
The two other recipients to receive the 2010 Brother John Taylor Prize are Riana Head-Toussaint of Killarney Heights High School and Zachary Newton of Nowra High School.