The 3 Things Your ATAR Will Never Reflect

Are you one of those people who stress so much over exams? Do you stay up until 2am writing out notes and highlighting textbooks? Drink Red Bull at night to stay awake and study, then end up watching a whole lot of Tik Toks and YouTube videos learning how to make your own wig? Then cram more studying in between the hours of 5am-7am.

Then I feel ya! I was there 8 years ago when I was doing HSC (to be honest I wasn’t watching Tik Tok because that wasn’t around yet, but if it was I for sure would have been on that). Only problem was that I was riddled with anxieties about being ‘dumb’ or never ‘going to amount to anything in life’.  Can you imagine someone asking you in the middle of Year 11 with all sincerity behind it ‘why are you even in school?’, or showing up to school one day and being taken out of class to be told that ‘you are not smart enough for this class’ and to be moved to a different one. Not to mention, then do the walk of shame across the playground to the ‘less smart class’.

I was told time and time again during my high school life that I wasn’t smart, even though I tried my best. I even went to maths tutoring on a SATURDAY! I studied all night for tests and put (what felt like) 1 million hours of work into my HSC major practicals. I dedicated my life to my studies in Year 11 and 12 to prove these people wrong. I wanted to show them that they were wrong, that I’m not dumb and that I was underestimated.

You can only imagine my heartbreak and disappointment when I learnt that my final ATAR result was 54.0. It was at this point that I ALMOST believed these people and gave into my biggest fears, that maybe I am dumb.

8 years on I can very say that I am not ‘dumb’ and there is so much about me that the number 54 does not reflect.

SO! Here are my 3 C’s for what I believe an ATAR result can never tell you about someone.


I bet when you see 54 you wouldn’t think that I got a band 5 in art. For most of Year 11 and 12, I was actually ranked 2nd in the grade for Visual arts (I was beaten for second in the final exams, but I have gotten over it). I am a super creative person and have always managed to make a living off of creating things. Whether that’s being commissioned to make custom jewellery or now being a full-time florist and owning my own business – which I worked on the latest ‘Married at first sight’ weddings! In my opinion, it is so hard to grade someone’s artistic abilities. One person may love what you do and think its worth a 10/10 and another person will think is a 2 – it’s all subjective. If you are a fellow creative soul like me and find yourself frustrated that your grades do not reflect your skills, please know that after school those skills are valuable.


When I received that 54, never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would end up managing florist shops by the age of 18, start my own business at 21 and become a TAFE teacher by the age of 23. If you’re assuming that if you don’t get an ATAR of 80 or higher that your life is over – I am here to tell you that IT MOST CERTAINLY IS NOT!! (could I be any more passionate about this opinion?!) Life gives you opportunities and if you have your heart set on doing something or being someone, it WILL happen. It may not be the easiest or most conventional way, but if you take advantage of those opportunities when they arise, you will get there.


54 does not tell you that I love my family and my friends. It does not show you all of the afternoons after school moments that I took my nan to do her groceries. It also doesn’t show you every time that I gave up my seat to let an elderly person to sit on the bus, or when I would make Mum a tea every night or be on the phone with upset friends until all hours of the morning. That 54 does not reflect some of my favourite traits of myself. I am kind and caring for others and I am so much prouder of that then my HSC results. The best parts about you are usually not in a test at school. They are reflected through your friendships and relationships. You are not your exam results!

When you get your next exam results and if they are really good – well done! I am so happy for you. When you get your next exam results and they aren’t what you wanted, then that’s perfectly fine, also. You will never be defined by a mark. You WILL, however, be defined by what sort of person you are.







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I found Burn Bright in the midst of studying civil engineering at the University of Wollongong, just as I wanted a richer, deeper, more full experience of life.

Through Burn Bright, I have met many students and volunteers who are all seeking to find their place in the world. When we come together at NLC or SLC, no matter our age, we begin on the same page, of wanting to do good for ourselves, our community, and the world. And then we are thrown into a program that brings us closer to each other, our purpose, and how to bring forth this impact. It’s like having your cake and eating it too.

Volunteering with Burn Bright stoked a fire in me – It helped me feel comfortable in myself and made me realise life isn’t just about work, study, or productivity, but our relationships and how we connect with others along the way.

I have learned skills in videography, worked for a top-tier corporation in marketing, and most recently published a book called “18 and lost? So were we” 

I have a passion for storytelling, bring loads of energy wherever I go, and am dedicated to helping young people move through the initiation of leaving high school and going into the ‘real world’. 

The best part for me is being able to stay connected to the latest generation growing through high school. To see them grow, expand and express more of themselves is like watching an artwork paint itself. It’s magic.

I am Simon Thurston, a Kiwi based in Perth. I work as an Instructional Designer and in my spare time I enjoy reading, running, and board games.

Since my initial connection to Burn Bright I have been onboard with their mission. Burn Bright’s focus on building the capabilities enables students of all ages to see how they can shape their world through connections with others and their own self discovery.

Seeing others grow, learn, and open up is what keeps me coming back, to help others realise their potential and how they can influence their future and their community is a definite highlight. It’s infectious, the atmosphere when they run a program or camp is welcoming, exciting, emotional, and rewarding all in one.



Hi, friends! I’m Kelsie, a psychologist from central QLD working in private practice. I got involved with Burn Bright officially in 2016, but the journey started long before that. I attended the National Leadership Camp (now hosted annually by Burn Bright) in 2009. It had such a profound impact on me that I returned as a mentor and volunteer. Those connections ultimately lead me to joining the Burn Bright team as an adult.

When I transitioned from facilitating with the Burn Bright team to working as a psychologist, I was so grateful for an incredible foundation of skills (particularly facilitation, communication and interpersonal skills) along with a strong grounding in positive psychology that Burn Bright integrates into their ethos.

I can’t imagine my life without volunteering for Burn Bright. I have met some of my dearest friends through the Burn Bright crew. I’ve found that volunteering for BB is rewarding, humbling, and often brings as much personal growth for the volunteer as it does for the young person.

From a professional perspective, I love that Burn Bright programs/camps support the adolescent individuation process by providing an exciting and supportive environment for teens to explore their own sense of self, personality, identify and values alongside other young people.

Imagine this POV: you’re back at school wanting to figure everything out and fit in – and you find
yourself in a room with amazing music that uplifts you and hooks you in. You meet the team of
dynamic, interesting, caring facilitators whose own friendships inspire you. Their facilitation skills bring about amazing light-bulb moments and lessons that light a fire inside you… It makes me want to feel that for myself again. The next best thing, for me, is volunteering for the team who passes that on to other young people.

My start at Burn Bright is one of the best cases of one door closing and another door opening. After losing my job at a local pub while on uni holidays, I started looking for new opportunities that were different and decided to volunteer. Searching for opportunities, I found working bees, community driving and nursing home visits, but the chance to become a National Leadership Camp intern stood out. Over nearly six months, I worked with the team to pull off Burn Bright’s first National Leadership Camp, and had an absolute blast in the process. After camp, I started working for Burn Bright while studying, doing anything and everything — data analysis, hiring strategy and even picking up furniture.

Finishing up working for Burn Bright in 2019, I am still actively involved with the Burn Bright volunteer community. I’ve found that the emphasis placed on investing in your relationships, understanding your values and making an impact allow you to be accepted for you. This has given me the tools needed to make the difficult decisions that life will inevitably throw at you. Besides all that, I’ve had a ton of fun and formed life-long friendships with people I may have never crossed paths with otherwise. “Get involved — you’ll change your life for the better and make life‑long friends in the process”.

I am a health science student from Perth wanting to get into the mental health realm of occupational therapy. In the meantime, I work as a barista and supervisor at a beachside café. In my spare time, I love to play netball, be around my friends and I have just gotten into crocheting. I went to Perth College where I was lucky enough to go to the first Perth College Leadership Camp in 2018 as a student and absolutely loved it. What really drew me in was the atmosphere that was created, the open conversations, and the lasting relationships formed.

Since then I have been a mentor for the Perth College Leadership Camp in 2019, 2020, and 2021 and had the opportunity to go to the National Leadership Camp in 2019. When Burn Bright comes to Perth I also love helping out at their programs as much as I can.

Volunteering for Burn Bright has given me so much that I could never have imagined. I have learned so much about myself and I have so much more confidence in myself and my abilities that I know I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t exposed to the amazing opportunities volunteering for Burn Bright has given me. Before being involved I would never have seen myself being a mentor, role model, and facilitator to students, but now I can confidently say that I am, and I have made an impact on others that I am proud of. I have also made so many meaningful connections to so many amazing people from all around Australia through Burn Bright. I get asked quite a bit why I keep coming back to my old school to volunteer and it’s simply because I was given this amazing opportunity to be a part of the Burn Bright programs and if I can help facilitate that experience to someone else then why wouldn’t I?

I was born in Perth and moved to Sydney in my early 20’s to continue work as a youth worker and surfboard maker. This was followed by 30 years working in IT as a computer programmer.

Following retirement in 2016 I searched for an organisation that was aligned with my values of servant leadership and service, especially in the youth space. This search led to Burn Bright where I am now volunteering one day a week and mentoring at the National Leadership Camp. Volunteering with Burn Bright gives me a great deal of hope and confidence in the next generation of leaders. It is a pleasure to be a part of the Burn Bright family.

I have been married to Denise for 41 years and we both very much feel part of the Burn Bright team.

When not at Burn Bright you may find me running along Manly beach, riding my mountain bike or indulging in my passion for photography.











Hi! I’m Rosie, a 20-something full-time public servant, part-time Tassie tourism advocate.

I am passionate about seeing young people succeed, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching them become the next generation of change-makers.

I have been a champion of the ethos and work of Burn Bright since its inception in 2014, and consider them to be the leading experts in their field. By delivering impactful leadership and wellbeing programs to students across Australia, they offer the knowledge, skills and engagement to invoke lasting positive change in school communities.

The Burn Bright team are dedicated, inclusive and values-driven, which is why I love working with them.