OUTGOING Jindabyne Central School (JCS) captain Michaela Ripper brought an audience to tears when she spoke about the struggles, traumas and achievements of her Year 12 classmates.
It was an emotion-charged final presentation ceremony and assembly for the 17 graduating Year 12 students last Thursday.
When she rose to deliver her captain's speech, Michaela told the hundreds gathered she had initially wanted to talk about the struggles her classmates had survived, the things she thought needed to be heard.
"We have been through some really hard times. I feel sad for all your scars," she told her classmates, referring to some tumultuous school years and personal tragedies.
Instead, Michaela decided to focus on the positives - the friendships they had formed, their personal growth and their bright futures.
"We deserve to be happy today," she said.
"Today we leave everything behind us. We have reached the finish line.
"It's time for us to branch into our own lives. This is just one chapter of our lives ended.
"There's so much to be written, so much to look forward to."
Michaela was swamped with trophies, a shield, certificates and prizes at the presentation when she was named High Achiever for the Year.
She also received the Long Tan Leadership award for recognition for leadership and teamwork within the school and the broader local community as well as the Snowy Hydro Award for achievement in the scientific field and the Snowy River Youth Council Award for involvement and leadership in the Snowy River Youth Council.
Michaela hopes to study science at the Australian National University in Canberra next year and pursue a career in science journalism.
Relieving principal Debbie-Lee Hughes spoke of her pride in the achievements of the Year 12 students and gave them some words of advice.
She said life was not a dress rehearsal, so take hold of it and live a life with compassion, humility and hopeful optimism.
Ms Hughes told her students never to be afraid to seek advice, to develop a sense of justice, admire heroes who inspire and live extraordinary lives to the benefit of others.
"Make this the great generation which asserts its imprint gently and unselfishly on those around you," she said.
Year 12 received a standing ovation and a "clap-out" as they left the JCS gymnasium for the last time.
They begin their final HSC exams on October 14.
Year 12 Special Awards - see page 4