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Home-grown hero: Spina the only small-town winner among Queensland’s highest achievers

Greatest inspiration: Darcie Spina with her parents, Andrew and Belinda at her graduation last year. Darcie says her parents inspire her to work hard and reach her goals. Photo supplied.

INGHAM Daily Press spoke with Ingham year 12 graduate and one of Queensland’s highest achievers, Darcie Spina on her recent education achievement award.

In a field dominated by students from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, Ms Spina has defied the odds to become the only small-town recipient of the prestigious Queensland Certificate of Education Achievement Award.

Ms Spina’s hard work certainly paid off, with the Gilroy Santa Maria College year 12 graduate among only 47 high school graduates across Queensland that were recognised for academic excellence in 2021.

“I’m really proud and surprised to have been one of the students to receive this award.

“I wasn’t really aware of these types of awards until I was notified by email,” she said.

Ms Spina was recognised in the Distinguished Academic Achiever category and received a certificate, trophy and $1000.

While the award came as a surprise, Ms Spina said it meant a lot to her to be recognised in such a way.

“It really reinforces and proves to myself that the work and effort I put in last year has been rewarded.

“I would consistently revise and put time into all subjects.

“There’s not really another way to achieve those results aside from putting in the effort.”

Darcie Spina

Ms Spina received six straight A grades in her senior subjects as well as vocational qualifications in health and community services.

She was awarded the 2021 Gilroy Santa Maria College Scholar of the Year, JCU Shield Award, College Dux and received the College’s highest ATAR score of 99.85.

With a resume like that, it’s no wonder she has been recognised among the top in the state.

Straight A student: Darcie Spina was awarded Gilroy Santa Maria College Scholar of the Year, JCU Shield Award and College Dux for 2021.

Ms Spina was one of thousands of students around the country who completed their senior studies during the Covid-19 pandemic and while it didn’t impact her studies a great deal, she has taken away the positives from the experience.

“I think we were really lucky in Ingham because we didn’t have much online learning compared to other places in the state and Australia. In saying that, the quick shift to online learning for a short period of time did teach me some valuable skills,” she said.

The dedicated 18-year-old has her sights set on becoming a doctor, having started her undergraduate degree earlier this year at the University of Queensland studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science.

“I’ve been offered entry into medicine at the University of Queensland and will start the four year post graduate degree once I finish my three-year undergraduate degree, so the total program is seven years.”

Darcie Spina

Ms Spina said in Year 10 she began seeking work experience at different healthcare precincts which solidified her decision to work in the healthcare field.

“Fortunately, in later years I obtained more work experience with doctors which further emphasised that I wanted to study medicine at the conclusion of Year 12,” she said.

While Ms Spina “isn’t too sure” what field she will specialise in, she has an interest in surgery but remains open to inspiration during future placements.

“As I do work experience in different areas, I’ll definitely get a better picture of what I want to specialise in,” she said.

Education Minister Grace Grace congratulated the award recipients from the class of 2021, adding that the exceptional cohort was “destined to be among our future surgeons, computer scientists, biomedical engineers and economists.”

Ms Grace said the awards reinforced that Queensland’s new senior curriculum and assessment system enabled students from across the state to reach their full potential.

“These award winners are the second cohort to graduate in the new QCE system and attended State, Catholic and Independent schools from Brisbane to the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Ingham and Rockhampton,” Ms Grace said.

“I applaud the school principals and teachers responsible for the learning cultures and commitment to high standards that helped these young people to flourish.

“This is also a proud day for the award winners’ families. I’m sure they are an important part of their children’s success,” she said.

Ms Spina owes a lot of her success to her hard-working parents, Andrew and Belinda who have inspired her to reach her goals.

“My parents and the hard work and effort they put into their work has inspired me to do the same,” she said.

2021 graduate: Darcie Spina, ready to celebrate a successful final year of school.

Amongst all the hard work and study of year 12, Ms Spina still had time for other activities in her busy schedule and a much needed break from her studies.

“I danced for many years at Bella Dance Studio throughout high school, including in year 12. It was a great break from school,” she said.

As Ms Spina steps out into the next chapter of her life, her advice to other students is to “honestly try their hardest.”

“To put the time and effort into getting where they want to be and to choose subjects or careers that they have a real interest in.

“I firmly believe any effort will be rewarded.”

And Ms Spina is certainly a testament to that.

The QCE Achievement Awards are sponsored by Griffith University, James Cook University, The University of Queensland and University of Southern Queensland.

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