Graduates of Benalla P-12 College are the Alumni. As our graduates move on they will have successfull life experiences, some will move on to be leaders in their field and we have much to learn from their experiences. Help us celebrate these graduates as they share their stories.
For Willow Plex, moving to Melbourne and living at Trinity College gave her the opportunity to give everything a go and be who she wanted to be, while also helping others to feel free to express themselves as individuals.
Willow Plex says that attending the small school of Benalla P-12 College in northeast Victoria meant she got to wear a lot of hats and didn’t need to fit into a particular clique. She was school captain and a music student, and played a lot of sport outside school. ‘I didn’t get defined into a box and I was really happy about that,’ she says. ‘I was lucky to be able to do a bit of everything and it’s kind of what made me the person I am – I could explore all of my interests all at once.’
When Willow left school, she wanted to study medicine and was originally planning to attend university in Albury, commuting from Benalla. It wasn’t ideal, but she saw it as the most feasible option. This was until her school was visited by a representative from Trinity College in Melbourne, who explained that scholarships were available to students with financial need. Suddenly a move to the big city and on-campus living became a possibility.
‘I visited the University of Melbourne for an open day and had this overwhelming feeling when I visited Trinity College,’ remembers Willow. ‘I was like, “I need to go here!” It’s just beautiful, it’s in the middle of Melbourne, the people here are amazing. After that it was like, “I’m desperate for this scholarship, I need to get it.” And I was so fortunate that I did.’
Going to college has meant Willow can also pursue her many interests and take on new opportunities. ‘Every opportunity that’s presented to me, I just take it on, I love it. There are so many opportunities out there for sports teams, art pursuits, cultural learning, leadership positions, everything. You’re never lacking in opportunities here and there aren’t any boundaries – like I’m not going to find myself as just a sport person or just an art person – I can try everything.’
As well as sport and art, Willow has become a student coordinator at Trinity – looking after other students in her corridor, helps facilitate the kitchen volunteering program, is part of the cooking and dining society, and has joined the outreach committee, which organises volunteering opportunities and fundraising for the college.
As well as getting involved in day-to-day activities, Willow has also appreciated the college’s supportive and inclusive environment. ‘During O Week it kind of set the tone that this is a place for learning and a place for respect,’ she says. ‘We were reminded that people come from different backgrounds and might not have the same education around certain topics, so it’s your role to pull people up and help them learn, and that’s something I’ve taken on going forward. Don’t be afraid to pull people up, or if you see that someone’s uncomfortable with something, address that. I think that’s a really important part of my time here at Trinity.’
When it comes to life more generally in the big city, Willow jokes that one of the highlights is that things are open past 8pm and she doesn’t need to drive 30 minutes to get to the shops anymore. But she also appreciates Melbourne’s culture and diversity. ‘People are always out and there’s different fashion senses,’ she says. ‘The political mindset is kind of what I agree with too. It’s very respectful and very centered around cultural learning and respect, which is something I struggled with at home, in that there were quite a few different opinions around race and sexuality and stuff, and it felt like a constant barrier to learning.’
In a sense, Melbourne offered a fresh start.
‘It was kind of nice coming to Melbourne and knowing absolutely no one. I had no connections, I didn’t know a single soul. And so, coming in, no one had expectations of me, no one wanted to define me by my previous experiences,’ she says. ‘I’m really fortunate that I’ve been able to come in and make friends with people from all different backgrounds. I feel very lucky.’