Cooper Sorrenti – Class of 2020

Cooper Sorrenti commenced at Goulburn Valley Grammar School in Year 7 after graduating from St. Joseph’s primary school in Cobram. With a keen interest in sports from a young age, he has represented his GVGS house, Fairley, each year in both the swimming and athletics carnivals since commencing in 2015. Although 2020 has seen a temporary hold put on team sports across the state, leaving Cooper unable to fulfil his role as this year’s GVGS ICCES soccer captain, he hasn’t let that stop him from keeping active. “I’ve picked up golf over the past few months since I haven’t been able to do any other sports,” he says. “When soccer was cancelled I wanted to find something to do…golf is pretty easy to pick up and it’s fun to do with your mates.” Having had little interest in the sport previously, golf has been a welcome addition to Cooper’s weekly schedule. “It’s given me something to improve on and take my mind away from constantly focusing on schoolwork,” he says. “It’s been good to learn a new skill.”

Akin to all other VCE students in Victoria, Cooper has experienced an unprecedented learning environment this year due to the global coronavirus pandemic. “It’s been frustrating being at home and not being able to see your friends, but it has helped in terms of school work,” he says. “I’ve been able to focus a lot more and get more done.” It took time for Cooper to adjust to being removed from the mainstream schooling environment he has grown accustomed to over the past 13 years, leaving him to face his final year of high school without a traditional classroom or regular contact with his friends. “Missing out on the events from the year has taken away from our ability to release that stress build-up,” he says. “You can easily get stuck just doing school work and you get demotivated because it’s all you have to do.” Cooper has taken on a business-focused workload for Year 12 – including subjects such as industry & enterprise, geography and economics – and the accessibility of his teachers throughout the year has been crucial in keeping him on track. “They’ve always been willing to help,” he says. “You just shoot them an email and they always get straight back to you.” Although remote learning has been difficult at times, it’s the unwavering commitment of his teachers that has gotten Cooper through the year. “It’s been really challenging, but all my teachers have been really good,” he says. “They’ve helped a lot and I’m very grateful for how much they have done for me.” Taking the added stress of COVID-19 in his stride, Cooper has managed to balance his academic workload and the ever-changing lockdown laws by keeping a consistently positive mindset. “Lockdown has been good because there are no outside distractions and so it’s easier to knuckle down and get the work done,” he says. “But at times it has been quite constant study and sometimes you can get unmotivated, but you just have to pick yourself up and get on with it.” Moving into the final months of 2020, Cooper looks back on his unique final year of high school and is most thankful for the commitment from his teachers. “You can tell that the teachers really do care about each and every student,” he says. “Talking to friends from other schools, you work out pretty quickly how good our teachers have been during this year.” A silver lining to the past 12 months has been that compulsory remote learning meant the long commutes between his home town along the Victoria/New South Wales border and Shepparton were no more.  “You do get used to travelling an hour to school and then an hour back home each day,” he says. “Although it has been good getting that extra hour of sleep each morning.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Cooper has had to preview his 2021 digitally, with university Open Days moving online, but like many country kids, he is keen to head down and explore the opportunities metropolitan Melbourne has to offer next year. “I’ve always known I’d go to uni in Melbourne; I even thought about it when I was in primary school,” he says. “So that’s something I’ve always worked towards.” Tossing up between continuing his studies at The University of Melbourne or Monash University, Cooper is also still undecided on what direction to take with his tertiary studies. “I’ve never really had a set course in mind, and I still haven’t really made my mind up yet,” he says. “I’m thinking maybe business, politics or economics or something like that.” As the year draws to a close Cooper is excited about the future and very ready for the next chapter of his life to begin. He says that with school having been such a big part of his life, he’s interested to see what it will be like moving away from home and tackling the challenges of ‘the real world’. “Filling out all the uni applications makes you realise that this is really happening and high school is almost over,” he says. “It’s getting kind of scary, but I do feel ready for it.”

Cooper has thoroughly enjoyed his time at GVGS, noting his 2017/2018 World Challenge excursion to Indonesia as a highlight. “It was a great experience and an opportunity to explore another culture and see how they live,” he says. During the trip Cooper was involved in charity work, which included building water tanks and planting trees for needy communities, as well as walking through the Sumatran jungles. “It was pretty life-changing and eye-opening because you get a completely different perspective on life, a really good experience,” he says. Reflecting back on his time at GVGS overall, Cooper is grateful for the endless academic and sporting opportunities over the years, as well as the passion evident in the teaching staff across all year levels. “The teachers really care and are committed to making our time at GVGS a good experience for every student,” he says. After a turbulent year, Cooper’s advice to the class of 2021 is simple, yet powerful. “Stay focused and don’t try to take the easy way out.”