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Student Stories

The sky is the limit for Head Girl, Tessa Barker

The lessons I’ve learnt from the process of challenging myself to achieve is one of the most important things I’ll take away from my time at ACG. It definitely took me a while to learn how to find a balance, and I’m very grateful for what I’ve learnt from this process – such as what my priorities are and when to take a break!
- ACG Parnell College 2019 Head Girl, Tessa Barker

It’s amazing what you can achieve when you set your mind to something. After almost failing a couple of maths exams in Year 7, ACG Parnell student Tessa Barker decided to put more effort into her learning.

Bucket loads of determination and a healthy dose of hard work produced transformative results. Not only has Tessa received the Academic Excellence Award every year since Year 10, but the talented teen is also the school’s 2019 recipient of the ACG Parnell Cambridge Dux Award.

“I feel very privileged to have received this award,” says Tessa, who was appointed Head Girl for 2019 and gained first in Literature, first in History and second in Biology.

“I started ACG in Year 7 not being a particularly fast learner or confident with academics, but I quickly discovered how important it was to challenge myself to do the best I possibly could. I’m so proud to receive an award which reflects the effort I’ve put into my learning these past few years.”

Thanks to these efforts, Tessa’s achievements have been plentiful. In her Cambridge exams she was top in New Zealand in Drama in Year 11, and top equal in New Zealand in Literature in Year 12. Outside of school she placed first and second in two Chinese essay writing competitions, and this year was placed top equal in the national Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival essay writing competition (senior category). Tessa says ACG Parnell has played a pivotal role in motivating her to reach for the stars, not just academically, but in all areas of her life.

“I went through a similar process with running, after deciding I’d had enough of coming close to last in my school cross countries. I trained a lot and placed second in the Year 10 girls’ race. That was a very special moment for me.

“The lessons I’ve learnt from the process of challenging myself to achieve is one of the most important things I’ll take away from my time at ACG. It definitely took me a while to learn how to find a balance, and I’m very grateful for what I’ve learnt from this process – such as what my priorities are and when to take a break!”

Now Tessa is turning her focus to tertiary studies at the University of Auckland, where she is about to start a Bachelor of Law conjoint with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in psychology and literature. She has also applied for scholarships to two overseas universities however recipients won’t be announced until later in 2020.

“I’m excited about starting university. With a bigger student cohort and so many different communities to join, I’m looking forward to meeting new people and having new experiences. It was the process of making friends and putting myself through new experiences at high school that brought me a lot of satisfaction and taught me a lot about myself.”

Tessa is confident the skills and knowledge she gained at ACG will set her up well for the future.

“Taking exams since Year 7 means I’ve had plenty of time to find the study techniques that work best for me, and I know that these will be invaluable at university.”

But the net falls even wider than that.

“During my time at ACG I’ve learnt a lot about what’s important to me and the kind of person I want to be. I’ll be taking my friendships and the values I’ve learnt from these experiences with me to university – not just my study techniques!”

And what’s in store for Tessa beyond her tertiary studies?

“I’m hoping the courses I take at university will clarify this for me. I think the best decision I can make is to take papers that interest me. I’m interested in media psychology and psychographics and I might even consider the field of legal ethics.”