Tiana Smerdon’s Speech – Opening Assembly 2018

Good morning Mr Dykes, staff, students, parents and guests.

Rewind six years ago and I was sitting in the audience. It was my first full school assembly. I remember watching the 2011 dux rise to accept their award. Honestly, I don’t remember their face, or their name, or their speech… But I do recall making a promise to myself. In that moment, I promised that I would do everything I could to be standing in the same position, delivering my own speech in six years time.

So here I am. Six years later. But how did I actually get here? On this stage, with this award. Well, firstly I’d like to emphasise that I didn’t do it alone. And to put a few rumours to sleep. I am not a superhuman, with an impressive IQ. I don’t have a photographic memory and I didn’t study every second during the HSC. To be truthful, I got distracted easily, complained about the weight of my books frequently and at times felt completely overwhelmed.

But what I did have was a goal and the most incredible, supportive network of people, who genuinely believed that I had the potential to make this goal a reality.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to each and every one of the teachers who played a part in my secondary education. Particularly those who were involved in my HSC year: which include Mr Lancaster, Mr Robinson, Miss Nero, Miss Files, Mr Dave Ryan, Mr Brown, Mr Michael Ryan and Miss Donaldson.

In 2017 Xavier felt like a second home. I basically lived here. Most weeks I was both the first student to arrive at school on Monday morning and the last to leave Friday afternoon. Although it’s been a while, I still vividly remember the feeling of struggling down school street with a mountain of textbooks. HSC is hard. There will be highs and lows. Disappointment, lost sleep and tears. But the weight of my HSC was made bearable, thanks to a few particularly outstanding teachers who went above and beyond in providing their unconditional support.

When the school was deserted on frosty winter mornings, Miss Nero would selflessly sit in the study centre and provide instant feedback on chemistry past papers at 7am. Mr Lancaster dedicated countless afternoons, which crept into early evenings, on weekdays and school holidays. His enthusiasm for biology was contagious and he was always ready to answer any of my burning questions, to offer encouragement in moments of self doubt and to provide tim tams on those tiresome days when chocolate seemed the only appropriate form of study motivation. On Friday afternoons, when everyone was keen to rush home, Mr Robinson stayed and offered his knowledge and time to discuss my English texts. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenging conversations we had and the new ways he taught me to think. I cannot express how grateful I am to all three of you, for consistently believing in me and sacrificing so many of your hours, so that I may stand here today.

Two people who did not simply watch me complete the HSC but participated right by my side are my parents. Thank you for enduring all the tears, panicked late nights before assessments were due and the days when I would be angry for no reason, other than the fact that the HSC existed. You believed in me even during my lowest moments. Thank you for pretending to understand when I randomly decided to explain the Haber process at the dinner table or when I would sit on your bed at night with my whiteboard, drawing up tables discussing the functions of the rods and the cones in the eye. I am immensely blessed to call such selfless  and hard working people my parents, thank you for your unwavering support. You both mean the world to me and I love you so much.

To my little brother and all his year 7 peers, welcome to Xavier. You are in the prime position, to do anything you set your mind to. Some people might try to convince you that the next five years of high school mean nothing. But they’re wrong. High school starts now, not at the beginning of year 12. Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. My best advice? Work hard from day one. Do not simply meet but exceed expectations.

High school is a whirlwind. It is both monotonous and spontaneous. It is both exciting and boring. The trivial dramas of high school will eventually lose their significance. One day you’ll wake up and realise no one even remembers the day you said the wrong answer in class, or you got a bad grade on a test or sang a song in front of the school. So make the most of every opportunity. Don’t avoid trying, in fear of failure. For it is failure which eventually leads to success.

One day you’ll be able to look back and treasure the days you once found so ordinary. Because it is in the little things, rainy lunchtimes in the music rooms, homeroom uno games and passing your friends on school street. These are things that you will only ever experience in high school. Here at Xavier.

I don’t mind if you forget my face, or my name, or this speech. What I do hope you can do, is to set yourself a personal goal. Even if it currently seems distant and unattainable. Maybe your friends might laugh at it. Who cares. Just this once. Take the chance to put yourself in a vulnerable position, dream something big and commit to that vision. Maybe one day, you’ll remember this moment, as the time you made yourself that one life changing promise.

Good luck to you all, especially the class of 2018.

Goodbye Xavier.

Thank You for listening and thank you for the memories.