Aurora Smith, Class of 2021

Aurora Smith joined her sister Miya (Class of 2019) at GVGS in 2016, shortly followed by siblings Heidi (Year 10) and Harry (Year 8). She settled into high school well and had the bus ride from Euroa to Shepparton with her siblings and friends to ease her into each day. “My favourite thing about Grammar was going to school and being genuinely happy every day,” she says. “It’s a great learning environment, it’s a great school.”

Passionate about sport, Aurora jumped at every chance to be involved in extracurricular activities. “I really enjoyed going to ICCES and doing sports I was interested in, such as football and soccer, but then I also had the chance to try other sports I hadn’t played before, like badminton, tennis and softball,” she says. “I wasn’t really focused on being competitive at the time, I just saw it as an opportunity to hang out with my friends, explore new skills and have fun.”

Aurora was also steadily focused on her studies throughout her time at GVGS and fast-tracked a subject in Year 11 to prepare her for her final year. “I liked doing maths until I hit VCE; all of a sudden it got really difficult and didn’t come to me naturally like it did in younger year levels, but I still chose to do maths methods in Year 12 because I wanted to push through and prove to myself I could do it,” she says. “I also did industry and enterprise in Year 11 which was really good – it was different and I think it taught me a lot of practical stuff that will be useful in the real world. Doing a Unit 3/4 subject in Year 11 also set me up well for Year 12. I’d encourage other people to do the same, it helps give you a taste for what Unit 3/4 subjects are going to be like.”

Aurora, like a lot of her peers, had big plans for her final years of high school. This included pursuing her AFL career dreams by playing with the Murray Bushrangers and also spending time with her friends. Once COVID hit, a lot of things changed. “In the very first week of lockdown last year, I didn’t mind remote learning. It was new and exciting, but then slowly it became a bit of a drag…I obviously hadn’t done anything like it before. You don’t realise how valuable it is seeing your teachers and friends face-to-face until you can’t anymore. Being at home with Heidi and Harry made it a bit easier because we spent a lot of time playing board games to pass the time and entertain ourselves,” she says. “In 2020, the Murray Bushrangers season got cancelled and I took this as a chance to become a better footballer. I knew a lot of people would use this time to shut down and not practice, so I saw this as a chance to focus – both on my football and also on my studies. I really tried to make the most of a bad situation.”

Throughout the lockdowns, Aurora used social media to keep her connected to people, as well as Zoom breakout rooms during class. “I’ve chatted with friends who go to other schools about how they found online learning and in comparison I think GVGS did a great job. The teachers were really innovative with the ways they kept us engaged and they were very conscious to not be repetitive – they really did the best they could,” she says. “We were given an estimated date for returning to school and then we were in and out of lockdown all the time so it was hard to keep going with all the uncertainty. Knowing that this was all going to be over eventually kept me going. You can’t repeat VCE, you can’t just go back and do it again, so this was my one chance to give it my all.” Aurora particularly enjoyed Year 12 study camp, a rare opportunity throughout her VCE studies to travel to Melbourne. “I really enjoyed staying at University College for a night at the start of the year because it was a small insight into what uni would be like, what my future would be like,” she says. “It was good to be all together in Melbourne and to see what our lives would be like the following year.”

Having been selected in the 2021 NAB AFLW U19 Championships All Australian Team and being recruited to the Western Bulldogs Football Club in the 2021 AFLW draft, Aurora has now relocated to Melbourne to pursue her dreams. Once the AFLW season concludes in March 2022, she plans to start a Bachelor of Science at The University of Melbourne. “My main focus right now is to stay fit, healthy and focused on my football so I can keep myself in check for any future seasons that I play,” Aurora says. “VCE is challenging at the best of times, and doing it thorough COVID was even harder, so now I feel like there isn’t anything I can’t do. My time at Grammar had made me a more ambitious and hardworking person. When you’re surrounded by people who are driven and want to achieve great things that motivates you to want to do well. I think the standard at Grammar is very high, and so naturally that encourages you to do well because that ambitious energy is all around you.”