When biology teacher Keita Matsumoto (Cohort 2016) asked his student Alex what her goals were for the year, she responded sarcastically, “To get to the National Youth Science Forum.” The NYSF is held in Canberra, and is one of the most competitive and prestigious science forums for secondary students in Australia.
Alex, who was then in Year 11 at Traralgon College, had recently heard about the forum, and mentioned it as an off-hand response to Keita’s question. But Keita took her comment seriously, and they set to work on Alex’s application: “mock group and individual interviews, reviewing application questions, down to basic social etiquette during interviews,” Keita remembers.
The hard work paid off: Alex was accepted. So this past January, she went up to Canberra for twelve days, where she attended lectures, visited labs with leading scientists, and met other students just as curious and interested in science as she is. “Simply saying ‘I liked it’ would be more of an insult than an understatement,” Alex says.
“I learnt so much about science and the careers we all have access to, but I also learnt things beyond science, such as social skills, public speaking, being comfortable in my own skin, swing dancing, and piano. Science brought us together to the NYSF, but the people made it great.”
What has Alex been up to since then?
She will be one of 25 students to represent Australia at the LIYSF.
Alex moved to Traralgon from Ballarat and is an independent student: she is fully responsible for her own finances, housing and schooling. Academics weren’t always very important to her, but she remembers a “tough yet inspiring” teacher in Year 9 who helped “settle [her] anger and aggression into something more useful such as [her] studies”.
As an independent student, she also has to pay for her attendance to the LIYSF on her own. Her teacher, Keita, is helping her fundraise, and they’ve created a GoFundMe to help her reach her goal.
“Fundraising is essential for me to head to the London forum,” Alex writes. GoFundMe is a crowdsourcing platform that lets anyone donate to a specific cause.
Keita is incredibly proud of Alex, although he remembers how their teacher-student relationship “was far from perfect at the start.” Spending time together working on the application helped them both better understand each other.
“Alex’s journey has reinforced the fact that education is still our greatest social equaliser,” Keita adds.
Alex needs to raise $6,800 before September, and she’s nearly halfway there – but she’s still looking for all the support she can get to fill the gap. You can help her reach her goal by donating to her campaign here.