Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Sign In Skip to Content

Student Achievement Award Winners

Foundation Outstanding Achievement

Lachlan Essing

VCAL Provider – Eastern Ranges School

Lachlan accepting award from the Minister

Lachlan Essing with The Hon. James Merlino

Lachlan, who is school captain at Eastern Ranges School, is an outstanding student and contributor to his community.

In each of the projects Lachlan completed for VCAL, he showed strong leadership skills. For the Youth Homelessness Project, Lachlan coordinated a group of students to help organise a market day at school. He wrote the proposal seeking permission from the school council, and the invitations to the wider school community. With his team, he planned the logistics for the day, carried out a risk assessment and made a contingency plan. The market day was a great success, raising nearly $1000 for the St Vincent de Paul Society.

The Youth Homelessness Project also allowed students to be part of a city experience camp. Lachlan drafted a script proposing the camp to the school council and had a classmate film him reading it out. Through the camp, students gained a better understanding of homelessness and how it affects young people. Lachlan then made a pamphlet for his local community to raise awareness of homelessness and how the community can help.

For the Vocational Education and Training (VET) component of VCAL, Lachlan completed a Certificate II in Public Safety. He undertook a School-based Traineeship, studying a Certificate III in Aquatics and Community Recreation while working at a local gym. He also completed a Structured Workplace Learning placement at AFL House, working with the historian. In both workplaces, his work was highly valued.

Outside school, Lachlan has represented Victoria in the Victorian Metropolitan All Abilities Football Carnival for two years in a row and won the 2018 Commitment Award. He also plays with the Ferntree Gully Eagles Football Integration Development Association (FIDA) team, of which he is vice-captain and member of the leadership group.

Intermediate Outstanding Achievement

Elaya Carbone

VCAL Provider – Monbulk College

Elaya with the Minister

Elaya Carbone with The Hon. James Merlino

Elaya began her School-based Apprenticeship in Commercial Cookery at the end of 2017, joining the program with an employer she had approached – SkyHigh restaurant in Mount Dandenong. As an apprentice at SkyHigh, Elaya won a bronze medal in the local AusTAFE Culinary Awards and went on to represent the William Angliss Institute at the state final, winning the silver medal.

Elaya’s outstanding achievements led to further exciting opportunities, including working at IDES restaurant in Collingwood with the head chef and owner, Peter Gunn. She was then invited to help at a Melbourne pop-up restaurant called the Private Dining Room, where she worked with renowned chefs Harry Mangat and Ross Magnaye. Next she learnt more about modern East Asian cuisine at Rice Paper Sister with Ross Magnaye, and assisted Harry Mangat with another pop-up restaurant in Geelong.

After these experiences, Elaya was invited to complete her placement at Attica, which has been awarded three chef hats by the Australian Good Food Guide and is one of the best restaurants in Australia. At the local atEAST School-based Apprenticeship and Traineeship awards, Elaya was a top performer, winning the:

  • Best First Year Commercial Cookery Apprentice
  • Best Overall First Year Apprentice
  • Most Outstanding School-based Apprentice
  • Recognition Award.

Elaya has also won academic achievement awards for all VCAL curriculum strands and played a lead role in her school’s musical production. Outside school, Elaya has contributed to community initiatives, including:

  • coordinating and being the MC of a fair to raise awareness of mental health
  • organising a veterans’ breakfast during Anzac week
  • helping to plan the logistics for a Commonwealth Games Day at a local primary school.

In recognition of her talent for leadership, Elaya was named VCAL Dux for 2018 and selected as her school vice-captain in 2019.

Intermediate Personal Development Skills

Mimi French-Wright

VCAL Provider – Buckley Park College

Mimi accepting the award from the Minister

Mimi French-Wright with The Hon. James Merlino

Mimi emerged as a talented leader when she helped organise the school’s market day celebrations. She managed her team’s progress in an inclusive and supportive way, and team members approached her to collaborate on decisions. The group’s market day stall was extremely successful and all money raised was donated to charity.

Mimi has played an active role in the school’s cafe, as a trained barista who can take on any role in the business. She is particularly skilled at customer service and has received positive feedback on her friendly and professional manner. Mimi was part of the team that ran the cafe during a teachers’ conference, where she demonstrated her ability for multi-tasking – taking and delivering customer orders, while helping other students and welcoming visiting teachers.

As part of their VCAL, students complete a community project. Mimi’s class chose to work with Scope, a not-for-profit organisation that supports people with disability to achieve their goals in life. The students completed a Scope training course and volunteered weekly at a balloon footy competition. The Scope workers commented several times on how Mimi was always one of the first students to step up and assist in any way she could.

In the classroom, Mimi’s teachers have noted her excellent organisational skills and high-quality work. She is always willing to support her classmates if they are falling behind or struggling.

Mimi is recognised for her leadership skills across the school community. She has been voted by her fellow students as the 2019 VCAL ambassador, which shows that her peers appreciate her approachable, inclusive style and can-do attitude.

Intermediate Work Related Skills

Sarah Meakin

VCAL Provider – Wantirna College

Sarah accepting the award from the Minister

Sarah Meakin with The Hon. James Merlino

Sarah has been an outstanding student in all areas of her VCAL program but particularly in the Work Related Skills strand. Last year, Sarah was about to start VCE when she attended a TAFE Taster Day at the local Swinburne University of Technology campus, which inspired her to follow her passion for landscape gardening. She enrolled in a Certificate II in Landscaping and has not looked back.

During a placement at Semken Landscaping, Sarah worked at some premier locations, including estates in Wonga Park and homes in Brighton. She had a second work placement, at Yarra Ranges Fire Management, where she learnt about the earth-moving industry and worked on walking tracks for Yarra Council. Sarah also kept up her part-time job at Bunnings.

Sarah thoroughly enjoyed her Certificate II in Landscaping, in which she developed skills in demolition, building retaining walls and paving design. For her achievements she was awarded the Mullum VET Cluster Award for Outstanding Student of the Year in Landscaping.

For her Work Related Skills project, Sarah participated in the Foundation for Young Australians $20 Boss Project. Leading a small team, Sarah created a business called Cycle Plants, which produced stylish plant-holders using recycled and op-shop items. With the help of Bunnings and her TAFE teacher, she was able to source discounted succulents. The team promoted the business via social media and sold all their products within days.

In her community activities, Sarah volunteered at a disability support workshop and, through the Scope Young Ambassadors program, assisted people with disability to play balloon football. She also helped a local charity with a clothing drive and sorting of donated Christmas gifts.

Sarah has been an inspiration for other VCAL students, particularly for the way she established a commercially viable business that promotes sustainable practices.

Intermediate Team Achievement

Hamid Arjomandi Lari, Georgia Hewitt and Stephanie Whitty

VCAL Provider – Doncaster Secondary College

Doncaster Secondary College students accepting the award from the Minister

L-R: Stephanie Whitty, Hamid Arjomandi Lari
and Georgia Hewitt with The Hon. James Merlino

For their Personal Development Skills project, Hamid, Georgia and Stephanie raised awareness and funds for the New South Wales farmers who have been affected by severe drought.

During Term 3, the team researched the effects of drought on farming, including its environmental, economic, political and social impacts. They decided to run a raffle and donate the proceeds to the New South Wales Farmers’ Relief Fund.

In rolling out their project, the students developed their skills in planning, organising, teamwork, leadership and communication. Firstly, they had to seek approval from the school council and follow guidelines for money-handling. They then approached local businesses, emailed corporations and called on the school community for prize donations. They enlisted the support of other VCAL students to sell raffle tickets, wrap donated goods and help with marketing. Getting other students involved not only enhanced the team’s organisational skills but gave their fellow students opportunities to acquire new skills. All the students gained knowledge and understanding of the pressures experienced by Australian farmers.

The students’ raffle succeeded in raising over $300 for New South Wales farmers.

Through their project, Hamid, Georgia and Stephanie have formed close connections both with the school and the local business community. They have developed greater self-belief and have shown other VCAL students how to run an awareness campaign.

A side effect of the project was that it helped to raise the profile of VCAL and the types of projects that VCAL students take on within the school. This has encouraged a growing number of senior students at the school to enrol in VCAL. The team, the school and the farmers have all benefited from this awareness and fundraising campaign.

Senior Outstanding Achievement

Ashlee Fisher

VCAL Provider – Cranbourne East Secondary College

Ashlee accepting the award from the Minister

Ashlee Fisher with The Hon. James Merlino

Ashlee showed great commitment to her studies, a consistent willingness to help others and exceptional leadership skills. She played an integral role in several VCAL cross-curricular projects, including:

  • fundraising for Emily, a local five year old with cerebral palsy. After meeting Emily and her family, Ashlee realised that there are many hidden costs in preparing a child with special needs for their first year at school. Ashlee and her classmates raised about $530 for the family, through a sausage sizzle, car wash and other activities
  • assisting with Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea fundraiser, which raised $718 for the Cancer Council
  • visiting a local retirement village, where she worked with the residents making craft items for fundraising. She also met regularly with one of the residents to help her write her life story.

As school vice-captain, Ashlee was involved in many whole-school activities, including Multicultural Day, Wear it Purple Day, the Breakfast Club, Student Voice meetings and speaking at assemblies.

Ashlee played a lead role in the school production of Legally Blonde, in which she was an excellent role model for junior students. She worked hard, attending after-school and weekend rehearsals, and participating in working bees to build sets, paint backdrops, and source props and costumes.

During her Senior VCAL year, Ashlee received multiple awards for her achievements, including:

  • VCAL Excellence awards for VCE Foundation Mathematics, VET Kitchen Operations and VET Creative Industries
  • Year 12 Growth Award
  • Year 12 Responsibility Award
  • Caltex Best All Rounder Award, a prestigious award that recognised her academic success in all VCAL strands, as well as her other contributions to the school and wider community.

Senior Outstanding Achievement

Dana Yap

VCAL Provider – John Paul College

Dana accepting the award from the Minister

Dana Yap with The Hon. James Merlino

Dana is a talented student with a commendable work ethic and drive to succeed.

This was clearly shown when she won the silver medal at the national WorldSkills Championships in Sydney in the Hairdressing category. She competed against Australia’s top hairdressers as she represented Victoria, demonstrating a wide range of skills within set timeframes.

Dana completed a Certificate II in Salon Assistant at the Chisholm Institute in 2017 and continued to hone her skills through the work placement she secured at Hair Razor salon in Frankston.

Throughout her Senior VCAL year, Dana has been involved in many projects in the Personal Development Skills strand. Her main project was the Mission Action Day Twilight Market stall, based on the $20 Boss strategy developed in her Numeracy class. Dana came up with the idea of braiding hair for a fee ranging from $3 to $10, depending on the style. This helped to raise money for the school’s Community Companion, a food van that supports people in need in central Frankston.

Dana was also a member of the teams that:

  • managed the school’s Year 10 formal, where she was responsible for designing the tickets and posters
  • partnered with a local nursing home to complete biographies of four residents and provide mini-makeovers
  • ran the VCAL Cook-off competition, in which she represented the school with a teammate, cooking a three-course meal.

Dana has excelled in her Literacy studies, bringing her personality and interests to all assessment tasks. For example, in one piece of persuasive writing, she argued the worth of the ‘love yourself’ campaign started by K-pop band, BTS. Whatever Dana takes on, she completes to a high standard and with great flair.

Senior Personal Development Skills

Rebekah Lear

VCAL Provider – Goroke P–12 College

Rebekah accepting the award from the Minister

Rebekah Lear with The Hon. James Merlino

Bek lives in a rural area. For her individual community project she chose to focus on mental health in the agricultural industry, working to dispel the stigma that can surround the topic. Aware of the high rate of suicide among farmers, Bek was passionate about starting a conversation that could make a difference.

Bek planned to hold a community event with a keynote speaker. Her aim was to inform farmers and their families about mental health, highlight the support that is available and encourage discussion. She wanted people to come and listen, have a meal and a chat, and wind down.

Bek had been impressed by the work of Ben Brooksby, founder of the ‘The Naked Farmer’, a social media movement that aims to help people in farming communities talk more openly about mental health. Bek plucked up the courage to invite Ben to speak at her event and was thrilled when he accepted.

In organising the night, Bek honed her communication, teamwork and project management skills. The tasks included getting approval from the school council, asking businesses to donate door prizes, booking an appropriate venue, and arranging catering and publicity. Bek developed a work plan to allocate various jobs to her fellow students.

There were many ups and downs, none more so than when Ben had to withdraw from the event two weeks out. Instead of giving up, Bek and her team came up with the solution of recording a video interview with Ben to present on the night.

The event was enjoyable and informative and the guests chatted afterwards, with some even opening up about their own struggles with mental health. The event raised $1000, with the proceeds going to The Naked Farmer’s chosen charity.

Bek has been an outstanding VCAL student and has achieved tremendous success in all her projects.

Senior Work Related Skills

Bradlee Simons

VCAL Provider – Peter Lalor Vocational College

Bradlee accepting the award from the Minister

Bradlee Simons with The Hon. James Merlino

Bradlee used his Senior VCAL year to focus on developing his employability skills. In his trade elective, he demonstrated diligence and leadership throughout various community activities. He participated in his school’s partnership with the Lalor Men’s Shed, where he endeared himself to the volunteers with his abilities, hard work and politeness. Bradlee also showed great application and skill in building a brick barbecue and pergola for the school.

As part of his VCAL studies, Bradlee completed a Certificate II in Automotive Vocational Preparation at the Outer Northern Trade Training Centre while also completing his Senior VCAL, demonstrating his strong work ethic.

Bradlee undertook two work placements, at Bayford Volkswagen and PACCAR Australia. The organisations were so impressed by Bradlee’s attitude, commitment and technical skills that they both offered him an apprenticeship. He has accepted the position at Bayford Volkswagen for 2019.

Through his studies at the Outer Northern Trade Training Centre, Bradlee participated in the Technical Education for Communities (TEC) program. He excelled in all aspects of the program and received the TEC Student of the Year award.

Bradlee is an impressive ambassador for VCAL and the TEC program, having made the most of his opportunities through school, VET and structured workplace learning to gain employment in his chosen field.

Senior Team Achievement

Brandon Stoll, Liaqat Ahmadi, Taylah Cavanagh, Loughlin Long, Steven Mark and Joshua Ringrose

VCAL Provider – Shepparton High School

Shepparton High School students accepting the award from the Minister

L – R Liaqat Ahmadi and Brandon Stoll
with The Hon. Minister James Merlino

For their integrated Personal Development Skills and Work Related Skills project, Liaqat, Taylah, Loughlin, Steven, Josh and Brandon decided to create 80 welcome hampers for athletes competing in the 2018 Invictus Games. The hampers would contain goods from Shepparton businesses, helping to promote the town.

The team worked tirelessly throughout the year on their complex project. They contacted Shepparton businesses to source items for the hampers, and gave presentations to the national directors of major food manufacturers in the area.

In doing so, the students gained confidence and honed their communication and logistical skills. Every company that was approached commended the students and sponsored and supported their Invictus Games Project.

The students communicated with the Invictus Games Organising Committee and gained the support of Wing Commander David Worrall, the Australian team manager.

The team was keen to travel to Sydney in October to deliver the hampers in person, but there were a few hiccups along the way, particularly with getting departmental approval for an interstate excursion at relatively short notice. It was a big boost when the students were successful in their application to a Shepparton supermarket for a $1000 community grant to help with travel and accommodation costs. Similarly, they were excited when a local transport company donated the use of a minibus and trailer.

As well as promoting the project via social media, the students contacted media outlets, such as Shepparton News and WIN TV. Nine News was also on site the day the team delivered the hampers, and covered the story.

The athletes were grateful to receive the hampers and some were quite overwhelmed by the students’ dedication and thoughtfulness. At the conclusion of the project, the students organised a ‘thank you’ event at the school, inviting their sponsors and one of the Invictus Games athletes, Stephen Hayes. Stephen attended and thanked everyone on behalf of the Australian team.

VCAL School-based Apprentice/Trainee

Shalyn Carney

VCAL Provider – The Grange P–12 College

Shalyn accepted the award from the Minister

Shalyn Carney with her award

Before she began her School-based Apprenticeship with the local ANZ bank, Shalyn was not enjoying school and wanted to leave as soon as possible. When her school careers adviser first suggested the traineeship, Shalyn was not keen on working in a bank, but her school and family encouraged her to try it.

Shalyn found the first couple of months at the bank difficult, but she persevered and began to enjoy it. She developed a strong professional relationship with her manager, who not only supported Shalyn with challenges outside work, but became a mentor. Shalyn started asking her manager for advice and discussing her studies, and socialised with the ANZ team. Shalyn was a special guest at an ANZ function in Melbourne celebrating Indigenous employees, attending with many high-profile ANZ staff.

At school, Shalyn’s attitude changed and she became more engaged. Although she had to juggle her work at ANZ, her VCAL and schooling requirements, and her part-time job, she now ensured that she communicated any issues she was facing. She agreed to work at ANZ during the school holidays, which helped her forge a stronger bond with her colleagues. Shalyn matured immensely over the year.

ANZ made a short documentary about Shalyn, with a film crew visiting her at school and the bank, and also interviewing her mother, ANZ supervisor and school careers adviser. In the documentary, Shalyn reflected on how far she had come.

Shortly after this, Shalyn spoke to a group of young Koorie students who were considering a School-based Apprenticeship or Traineeship. Her experiences and knowledge of balancing school and work helped many of them to make a decision.

Shalyn now has a permanent position at ANZ and is delighted that she has found the right career path through her School-based Apprenticeship.

Koorie Student Achievement

Kobi Dunn

VCAL Provider – Wodonga Senior Secondary College

Kobi worked hard in Years 11 and 12 to complete his Intermediate VCAL in August 2018.

Through his VCAL work placement, Kobi successfully secured a roof plumbing apprenticeship, which he started in August 2018. This allowed him to graduate with his Year 12 cohort but also commence his apprenticeship and training six months earlier than the other students.

As well as achieving significant success in his Work Related Skills, Kobi showed commitment to his Personal Development Skills and VET Building and Construction units to ensure he did well across his entire VCAL program.

Kobi led a community based project that created links with the local motocross club. He and other students attended the club track every Wednesday, volunteering to complete maintenance and track development. They also volunteered at weekend club race events, helping with flag marshalling, canteen and other duties.

By extending one of his projects in his VET Building class, Kobi created an exceptional project that both met VET competencies and was relevant to the Personal Development Skills.

Kobi has a deep and strong connection to his Koorie culture and has done substantial work with his father in local Koorie programs. His father is a wellknown artist and has had a major influence on Kobi’s talent and drive to succeed. The school is proud of Kobi’s success with both his VCAL and apprenticeship.