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Leave your Legacy | yTeam Panel Q&A

By August 4, 2021Event

Heading into Semester 2 can look different for Year 12s and 13s, with some students feeling pumped that the year is halfway through, while others perhaps nervous that the end is nearing. As leaders, some students have a solid plan for what’s to come or they could be a little stumped for ideas. In July 2021, some students were faced with lockdown, while others proceeded as normal. What we realised however was that all of these students had similar challenges, motivators and questions about what is to come.

Leave your Legacy was an opportunity for Year 12 and 13 students across Australia and New Zealand to come together and connect with other like-minded students in order to:

  • Gain ideas and advice from a panel of recent graduates

  • Brainstorm with other leaders about events and initiatives they could run in Semester 2

  • Speak to others about experiences they’re having, such as navigating lockdown

  • Set a clear vision on the legacy they want to leave behind as a leader and action steps to take moving forward

We are so glad we were able to share an hour of power with senior students, re-setting for what’s to come in the remainder of 2021.

As part of the Leave your Legacy webinar, we asked some of our recently graduated yTeam to join us on a panel, in order to share their wisdom, advice and learnings from their time at school. Spread across VIC, QLD, SA, NSW and NZ, these panellists participated in a Q&A, answering pre-submitted questions as well as those asked live throughout the webinar. They discussed topics such as keeping motivation throughout the final months of school, as well as maintaining balance between studies, leadership roles and extra-curricular activities. The panel gave personal examples about their own impact at school, illuminating what it means to actually create a meaningful legacy.


Declan, Sophie, Sarah, Grace, Sallee & Kano offered up such tangible tips, that we wanted to capture the goodness and share it with you!

Sallee Shepherd (SA yTeamer): Graduated in 2020 from Unity College (Murray Bridge) and is currently studying a Bachelor of Secondary Education.

Q: How did you time manage effectively in Year 12, because I feel like a lot of the time I’m constantly doing schoolwork?

A: The best way that I time-managed was creating a checklist so I didn’t miss out on doing anything. Writing down what I had to do was very effective alongside putting them into a calendar, so I know exactly what is due and when it is due. The best way to stop the constant feeling of so much schoolwork is knowing exactly what is on your plate so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Sophie Lee (NSW yTeamer): Graduated in 2020 from Danebank Anglican School for Girls and is currently doing a double degree in a Bachelor of Politics and Business Law.

Q: How did you keep motivated with your study and stay on track?

A: First of all, it’s good to acknowledge the need to take a break at times and listen to your body and how it is feeling. Take some time to do the things you love so you can stay motivated doing work. There were three things that helped me which were finding what worked for me in study whether that be palm cards or listening to your own voice talk about the content, setting an effective routine that includes time for physical activity and study and having a to-do list. It’s a really great feeling to be productive as ticking off those tasks on the list is definitely very motivating.

Declan Baker (VIC/QLD yTeamer): Graduated in 2020 from Padua College and is currently studying a Bachelor of Engineering.

Q: What is a piece of advice you wish someone gave you in Year 12?

A: For me it would be to keep a good balance in your life. With exams coming up you may feel the need to study all the time or even in a leadership role you may feel as though you need to give absolutely everything to your school. But it’s still really important to maintain healthy relationships, have a social life, play sport and do something you love. Don’t get caught up in all the work as you will probably burn out.

Grace Bowles (VIC yTeamer): Graduated in 2020 from OLSH College and is currently studying a double degree in a Bachelor of Laws and Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

Q: How can you make events more flexible? For example, you put all this effort in to an event and it gets cancelled last minute, how did you go about adjusting and adapting?

A: I think the first thing to do is to step back after they get cancelled to feel a little disappointed and upset. As a school captain, I felt as though I had to be the first person to say “No it’s fine”, but there comes a point where you need to stop pretending and let those feelings in and let others also do the same. The best thing was to stay realistic in the current world situation, which for my leadership team was to have a Plan A and B. If we had a trivia night, we would have a way of allocating tables and organising it in person which was Plan A and if it was to go online, how could we run it then which was Plan B. If you are prepared for the plan change, it takes so much more pressure off your back.

Sarah Valintine (NZ yTeamer): Graduated in 2020 from New Plymouth Girls’ High School and is currently taking a gap year, working as an outdoor instructor at an adventure park.

Q: If your teacher or principal doesn’t approve of your ideas, what can you do to get your idea over the line?

A: I’ve had experience with this from school and trust me it is frustrating. From the get-go, backing yourself is really important and having back up plans is also very good. If it is a super awesome idea and you’ve put so much work into it, don’t throw it away, keep pushing for it. Get other people on board as well such as other teachers or senior teachers which really helped. Also ask the teacher who put back your idea for advice. Why did they turn it down and what can you do to change it or what can you do in other ideas to avoid them rejecting it after so much work.

Krushnadevsinh aka Kano Ravalji (VIC yTeamer): Graduated in 2017 from Wyndham Central College and is currently working as a Youth and Multiculturalism Advocate.

Q: How do you balance Year 12 whilst trying to leave a meaningful legacy?

A: It’s about doing the little things. A legacy is made up of all these little actions such as saying hello to your friends each day or going up to someone in the playground who looks lonely and having a chat to them. Doing them constantly over time will create a big legacy. Make sure with big events as well, to trust in yourself and others as so many people have untapped potential and all it takes to unlock it is for someone to tell them they are trusted. So make sure you’re doing the little things to leave a legacy and trust your team and those around you when working on big things.

Live Q&A:

Q: How did you guys leave a legacy at your school?

Sophie: At my school, we had an overarching theme at the start which was “2020 Vision”. From that we then came up with other sub-themes such as appreciation and doing other little initiatives to give back to our community. So, it was about seeing others.


Q: I feel like I stress out a lot at school which leaves me tired, so how can I motivate myself when I don’t have the energy to do it?

Grace: I can relate to that because I went so hard in Year 12 and I got to a point in Term 3 where I felt like I was sitting in a laptop for 16 hours straight which was exhausting in lockdown. What helped me was refocusing my priorities and my goals. I confused my motivation and the pressure I felt and the expectations put on me. In the first semester, I felt like I was only working hard because my teachers expected me to get a good ATAR and my sport coaches expected so much from me. But when I sat down and looked at my goals and priorities, I found I was more motivated because it was about setting myself up and ‘filling my own cup’ instead of trying to fulfill other peoples’ expectations.


Q: I’m finding that as a leader, there are four others that I work with but I feel as though I’m organising everything and having to push them to get involved and do stuff, so how do I get them and my whole school on board and motivated?

Declan: I had a very similar situation. We had half of our team doing all they could whereas everyone else was so focused on ATAR stuff and the best thing to do is to be honest with them. Chat to them about the issues instead of going behind their back and talking about them as it can cause a lot of resentment in the team. It may seem scary, but sometimes you got to have those scary conversations otherwise nothing will change.

Sallee: I’m definitely echoing everything that Declan has just said, communication really is a big key in a team environment. I think when my team was like that, the best strategy for me was to write them lists which may sound control freakish but setting them a list with steps to complete each activity was very effective as almost every time I did that, those tasks got done.

(Participant): Something that works at my school is when we are having our meetings and getting ideas across the line, at the roundtable, we make sure that everyone is facing each other so we know who is passionate about what. If certain people are passionate about different things, they will be more willing to do their tasks.


Q: What was it like transitioning from school to the outside world?

Sarah: I am on a gap year and have moved out of home, and it is a massive leap to take. Transitioning was scary at first, but honestly the best thing to help that is to feel confident and back yourself. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, take a minute to breathe and clear your head. One thing I do to help myself Is go for a walk or go outside so I can clear my head and stop myself from getting overwhelmed. It is difficult to figure out at first, but you will get the jist of it eventually.

Follow up questions answered after the webinar:

Q: At what point in the final year were you able to stand back and look at what you had done and reflect on all of your schooling finishing? 

Sophie: I think there were two points in the year where I was able to reflect. The first was in graduation week in September, a late night before our graduation ceremony where I was finishing off a speech. I really reflected on all the fun times with my year group as well as how much we matured. I think that was when I felt really content with all that I’ve done at school. And then in late November after HSC exams and formals, this was the point where I was finally able to stand back and realise how far I’ve personally grown. For me, finishing high school didn’t actually sink in til after all the crazy weeks post HSC, so it took me a while to reflect on what just happened and my whole schooling journey. I think this was the point where I felt really proud of my leadership team and I recognised the impact we reached.

Q: What helped you through the pressure of external exams? 

Sophie: A lot of self reassurance that it will be okay and that if I prepared, it should be fine! For myself, most of the pressure came from my own expectations so I think it’s important to accept that if you put in all the hours of hard work, then you are prepared and can tackle anything. Also, I tried to erase the stigma of it being a ‘final exam’ and treated it as if it were just like any other trial or school exam.

Grace: If I’ve learnt anything since graduating, it’s that year 12 and 13 exams really aren’t the life altering, universe shifting experience that they feel like. Your final year of high school is a stressful and all consuming experience, and as a result it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole world that exists beyond it. Of course, taking regular breaks, continuing to engage in the things that fill your cup and surrounding yourself with people who love and support you makes the experience a whole lot easier. However, the biggest pressure relief is perspective. These exams do not determine the rest of your life. It always helped me to write a list of all the good things in my life that would stay exactly the same even if I completely flunked my exams. My dog would still lose her mind every time I walked through the front door, the sunsets would keep being beautiful and all my friends would still value me for my kindness. So don’t let the pressure of exams run you down completely, or you’ll forget to pay attention to all that amazing stuff. Take it from someone who burnt herself out completely getting an ATAR she never used.


Q: How do you deal with negative attitudes of students or year level in response to initiatives or ideas that have already been approved?

Sallee: COVID meant so many of our plans had to be changed, and my year level generally was never really happy about it. The first thing we did when we encountered these situations, was talk about it. As a leadership team, we would discuss the pros and cons of the situation and the concerns of the year level. After this, we would address it head-on. We found the best way to kill negative vibes was to be transparent and honest. What this did as it eliminated that schoolyard talk which often spirals out of control and becomes bigger than you can handle. Lastly, we would take any feedback on board and make changes where we could so that it was apparent to everyone that we were trying to do the best thing by them. Most of the time we manage to change the general vibe of the situation from super negative to ‘okay it might not be that bad’. And you have to take that as a win!

Sarah: I have a really low negativity tolerance and I found that there’s a couple of ways to deal with students’ negative attitudes towards leaders’ amazing ideas…

  1. Vibe with all of the students who are really digging your initiative that you’ve organised for them! Shut all that negativity out and focus on the people who are loving it, because their enjoyment will have a domino effect. It should hit their friends and their friends’ friends, etc… And if there are still people stuck in their stubborn, negative ways, then they’re the ones looking silly while everyone else is having a good time.
  2. If the negative ones are trying to tell the leaders or their friends that the initiative is dumb, ask them for their opinion and ideas. Often the negative students are the ones that don’t contribute their ideas or voice their opinions, so you have to give them the opportunity.


Q: If you could go back to Year 12 and re-do it, what would you do differently/change, if anything?

Declan: If I could go back and do Year 12 again, I would focus on maintaining my relationships with my mates and family more. Throughout year 12, I frequently put my social life on the backburner to focus on study and my leadership responsibilities. I also didn’t set aside much time at all to spend with my family, particularly in term 3 and 4 when final exams were round the corner. Not only did this put a lot of stress on friendship but also on my personal happiness. Striving for academic success and trying to do the best for your school is obviously fantastic, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your own wellbeing.


Q: My question was towards Kano, you spoke about trust. I feel like a lot of young people especially students find it hard to trust ourselves and we tend to overthink a lot. Do you have any advice on how to trust yourself a little bit more?

Kano:I think the best way to go about this it to become your own best friend, be your biggest supporter and cheerleader. We don’t trust ourselves because we feel like we might fail, get judged or think we are not capable of doing something. But I believe in changing that voice inside all of us and turning into a positive one, which backs and believes in us, and helps us to clear any doubts, so we can trust ourselves and give it a go!


Q: Kano, did you feel successful when you left school after being a school captain??

Kano: I definitely did! My biggest accomplishment was just finishing Year 12 and leaving that legacy behind, feel like completing school isn’t given the credit it deserves. As a school captain, our team was successful in leaving a legacy of a week-long multicultural event, first of its kind at our school, which continues to get bigger and better every year! This is also great to ask yourself, what do you want to achieve before leaving school? Use that to motivate and push you throughout the year!! Because I wasn’t driven by a ATAR, so I found something else to push me, which was to challenge and push myself out of my comfort zone to complete Year 12. So, I highly recommended finding what gets you up in the morning?


Q: What sort of things did you as leaders do with your year level towards the end of the year that you believed improved morale or sense of unity?
Grace: For us last year, it was important that we made every moment really special, as with the uncertainty of COVID, we never knew when our last day together would be. Never underestimate the power of just spending time together or working on something together. An awesome thing our school ran were late night study sessions in the lead up to exams. Most of the Year 12s would stay back in the library until 8pm, and we would all stop to eat dinner together. Not only was it a great resource, as you always had someone nearby to ask for help with content, but it was a really unifying opportunity to see everyone help and motivate each other to reach their goals in that space. Studying alone in your room every night can be draining and lonely, so the space created was really motivating and a nice break from that isolation.
Declan: This was honestly a massive challenge for our leadership team, particularly with trying to navigate around restrictions. However, we were able to try and engage our grade through some competitions and other events we planned. We organised a ping pong and handball competition, both created a big spectacle and gathered the whole grade together to watch. We also organised, pre-exam breakfasts for our mock exams that allowed the grade to gather together and relax before we had to sit our exams. All these events took a lot of planning, but I think its important whatever you do to try and tailor it to your specific cohort and whatever they might be interested it. With Padua it was a bit easier because most of our grade had a profound love of sport but that will change from school to school. Whatever you plan, persevere with it, there will eb setbacks but you can always work around them.
Q: How did you guys leave a legacy at your school?
Sallee: At the start of the year, we focused on three words authenticity, acceptance, and appreciation. We tied these words into everything we did all year. However, a big part of our legacy, which I didn’t realise until after we finish year 12, was our willingness to change. Our group was the most proactive adaptable and approachable group the school had seen in a long time. And that was our legacy. So don’t get too caught up in trying to create some big thing that you’ll be remembered for. Because your legacy will be the things that happen in between the meetings. The conversations with teachers and students, your work ethic. Your legacy will be how amazing you were without even trying. My best advice was given to me when I attended ASLC, and that is to be a better version of yourself today, than you were yesterday. Do that, and your legacy will create itself!
Sarah: Having been hit with a 6 week COVID lockdown early in the year when most of our initiatives were supposed to be underway, my co-leader and I decided that staying connected with each other is super important. So during the lockdown period, each year group had a zoom call with each other at least once. We also encouraged people to send photos in of what they were up to so that we could chuck them up on the hostel social media, and we also held little competitions. Outside of lockdown, I hit up the other head of hostels from the three other boarding schools in the region and asked if they’d like to pitch in on a new shield that could be competed for during inter-hostel activities. The name of it is the 2020 leaders shield. Our names are on the back of it and the reason of why it was created is summed up in a little quote on there too. At prize giving, I passed the shield to the new 2021 head of hostel so that she could start getting the comps underway this year and maintain those strong connections with the other boarders in Taranaki.

A HUGE thank you to our incredible panel for all of their wisdom and advice! Shout out to all the students that attended on the night, and to everyone going through their final year of school… you’ve got this, we believe in you! Whether you realise it or not, your legacy has already begun.