Year 12 student Sienna Hopper has big dreams for her life after school.
She aspires to follow in her father’s footsteps and has recently been accepted into the Air Force Gap Year program in 2023.
The Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) student from St Mary’s College Ipswich said her school has supported her goals.
“St Mary’s have ensured I have been immersed in defence culture, not only providing me the opportunity to attend Commemorative services as a school community, but I also recently walked the 48km Kokoda track,” Sienna said.
“The experience was a huge eye opener for me and helped inspire me to follow in my father’s footsteps and pursue a career within the Australian Defence Force (ADF).”
Sienna said her ADF upbringing meant she moved schools more frequently than other children.
“St Mary’s College offered a different experience compared to my past schools,” she said.
“I first started at St Mary’s College in 2017, and my first impression of the school was that the staff and students were extremely welcoming and inclusive.”
Sienna said the transition to St Mary’s was made easier thanks to the support provided to her by the Defence School Mentor.
“I have had weekly defence catch ups where I could connect with the Defence School Mentor and other students who have experienced the same challenges as me, growing up as a defence child.
“They also encouraged me to participate in extra-curricular activities which allowed me the opportunity to make connections with my peers and the wider Ipswich community.
“They checked in with me when my dad was deployed and offered me empathy and understanding for my life as a defence child.
“I have really benefitted from St Mary’s embracing the Defence Schools Mentor program which I feel celebrates defence families like mine.”
St Mary’s College Defence School Mentor Mary Galea said St Mary’s recognises that the Defence lifestyle has a unique effect on families.
“Our ADF students face many challenges, particularly due to mobility and absence,” she said.
“Students can find it challenging to change schools, particularly in the later years when they must leave their friends and build new support networks.
“That’s why the role of a Defence School Mentor is so important, helping students transition during these difficult periods, while also supporting these students when their parent(s) are deployed.”
Mary added defence students play a key role within the St Mary’s College community.
“Our Defence students are committed to educating our civilian students and encouraging them to participate in Defence commemoration and understand the important role Defence members play in our community,” she said.
“Sienna has been a welcomed addition to the St Mary’s College community, advocating for ADF students like herself, making them feel welcomed within our school community, and role modelling the importance of remembering the sacrifices and achievements of those who serve our country.
“I am extremely proud to see Sienna accepted into the Air Force Gap Year next year and know she has a bright future ahead within the Australian Air Force.”
BCE schools from Ipswich to Mitchelton proudly participate in the Defence School Mentor Program and work closely with both the RAAF Base at Amberley, and the Australian Army Barracks at Enoggera, to provide care for Defence families moving to Queensland.
For more information about enrolling at Brisbane Catholic Education schools, or to find a school near you, visit www.bne.catholic.edu.au.