Small town girl makes big college history

AWARDED: Isabelle Merrett receives an academic excellence award from deputy Shana Bennett during the Sacred Heart College Year 12 graduation assembly. Picture: SACRED HEART COLLEGE

By Molly Taylor

FORMER Penola resident Isabelle Merrett is considering a future in medical science after topping Year 12 results at one of Adelaide’s most prestigious schools.

Ms Merrett was named Dux of Sacred Heart College after achieving an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank Score of 99.6, as well as five A grades and merits in biology, research project and religious studies.

It was ground-breaking achievement by Ms Merrett – affectionally known at the college as Belle – becoming the first female boarder in history to be named Dux of Sacred Heart in a challenging year where boarding facilities were closed for four months due to COVID-19.

Born and raised in the Limestone Coast, Ms Merrett’s school-topping result was impressive considering the college’s 300-strong cohort had a 100pc South Australian Certificate of Education completion rate, with 41 students exceeding an ATAR of 90.

It was reward for effort from the former Tenison Woods College, who moved to Adelaide two years ago.

Although a year of diverse challenges, Ms Merrett said the stress was all worth it.

“My teachers were so amazing and mum and dad were super supportive,” she said.

“I think it was tough because I also had nothing else really going on, no distractions and dedicated myself completely to study,” Ms Merrett said.

“I have to do a speech from school and I’m going to mention I am just a small country girl and I feel so proud that I am able to say I am from Penola.

“I just pushed myself, but look where I got, it is just so amazing that I can be up there.”

Ms Merrett decided she wished to attend the college to step out of her comfort zone.

“I wanted to extend myself and with a bit of convincing, mum and dad let me go,” she said.

“I think most students struggled with the pandemic but as a boarding student as well, that closed for a bit.

“I had to study from home remotely and when I got back to school, the boarding school still wasn’t open so I had to find somewhere else to stay to go to school, which was tricky.

“I think being away forced me to be independent and mature and I think I learnt a lot of life skills from doing that which you wouldn’t really have at home.”

School principal Steve Byrne said the college community was proud of Ms Merrett’s achievements.

“Belle’s contribution to the boarding community and dedication to her studies have been second to none and we are absolutely thrilled for her,” Mr Byrne said.

“The most remarkable thing about Belle is the challenges she has faced this year being a Year 12 boarding student during a global pandemic.

“With the boarding house being closed for nearly four months, the disruption our boarders faced and overcame was truly inspiring.

“The resilience and courage our students showed, exemplified what it means to be a Sacred Heart College student.”

Ms Merrett thanked her teachers and school peers for their help, planning to study a bachelor of medical radiation science in 2021.