Sarah Roberts, Class of 2021

Sarah Roberts started at GVGS in Year 5, with her brother (Andrew Roberts, Class of 2016) a few years ahead of her. “My parents had always wanted us to go to GVGS because they thought it was a nice place to learn and grow. Once my brother was there and they saw how much he enjoyed it, they knew it was the right decision for me to go as well,” she says.

With both parents professional music teachers, it’s no surprise that Sarah has amassed a long list of musical accolades throughout her time at GVGS, including the 2021 Senior Production Choir, 2020 Symphonic Band and 2019 Brass Ensemble just to name a few. She also plays both the violin and trumpet, focusing on the latter in her senior school years. “My mum teaches trumpet so she was very on board when I started to play,” Sarah says. “VCE music requires a lot of time and dedication and I don’t know if I would have been able to invest enough of myself into committing to take music on as a Year 12 subject. I chose a lot of energy heavy subjects in VCE and I wanted to keep playing the trumpet without that academic pressure attached to it so I’d be able to really enjoy it.”

Sarah also excelled academically throughout high school, with numerous notable results in ICAS competitions and formal awards for her Unit 1 & 2 subject results in 2020. “I like to keep moving, I get bored very easily so I like to be doing something all the time. My favourite subject is maths because I like the problem solving element and I get satisfaction from working my way through a problem to the answer, it’s very satisfying.” she says. “I fast-tracked biology in Year 11 and it was a great opportunity to get an idea of what VCE was going to be like, but more importantly it prepared me for what VCE during a pandemic would be like.”

Sarah found some aspects of online learning, in conjunction with the constant uncertainty surrounding the unfolding year, a challenge. “I found Year 12 very difficult. It was the in-and-out of lockdown that really took its toll on me, the last term was very stressful because there was so much unknown about how anything was going to happen,” she says. “Staring at a screen all day took a lot of energy out of me and missing that contact with my friends and other students made me feel very isolated too. We got through it in the end, but for VCE it wasn’t ideal. We had to find alternative ways of doing things at home. I had a lot of lists on my desk that I would cross off when I completed a task, and I consciously surrounded myself with hard copy versions of things so I wasn’t staring at a screen all day.”

To get her through her studies, Sarah relied on the support of her teachers and maintained an organised working space to keep her anxiety at bay. “The School was great and facilitated online learning really well. They gave us space to breathe when we needed it and they knew we had limits with what we could do over Zoom,” she says. “I was always keeping my desk tidy and not letting everything get on top of me so I could feel organised. I wanted to feel like I had control over my environment , I did a lot of it for my mental health as well. If I don’t have a list of the things I need to do then I tend to feel so overwhelmed and so to prevent unnecessary panic and anxiety I would always make sure I was on top of what was going on.”

As the reality set in that 2021 was going to be a similar story to 2020, Sarah was comforted to know that she had developed the skills necessary to get her through continued online learning for her final year of VCE. “At the start of 2021 things felt a bit more normal and then soon the reality hit home and we knew it was going to be like it was the previous year. We didn’t get to see our friends very much and it was exhausting when you couldn’t connect with people in the way you wanted, but we had to make the most of the situation,” she says. “When the inevitable happened and milestone events did get cancelled, there was obvious disappointment for the students, but also the teachers, we knew they wanted these experiences and these memories for us too.”

Sarah says that she feels stronger as a person having successfully endured her final years of high school during a pandemic. “While things may not be ideal, everything will work out in the end. You can still be a part of things and it’s not the end of the world if things aren’t exactly how you imagined it,” she says. “Everything will be ok, it’s one step at a time. We never thought we could do our VCE virtually, but here we are. We got through it.” Sarah’s time as School Community Prefect in 2021 was also different to how she imagined. “At the beginning we had a few events and it went well, but then as the year went on things got cancelled and so we tried to move some events online and not lose that magic of school community. Just because we weren’t all seeing each other in person didn’t mean I couldn’t still have an impact in the role,” she says. “We really wanted to unite everyone after last year and I think we did some great work to achieve that.”

In 2022, Sarah plans to study biomedicine at The University of Melbourne and work towards a career improving the mental health of rural Victorians. “I’ve always had so much respect for doctors and medical professionals and my goal is to eventually specialise in psychiatry,” she says. “We really need to value and focus on the mental health of our whole community, it’s a fundamental part of who we are and how we function as a society.”