There aren’t enough hours in the day for Year 12 student Jason Cleary-Gorton. Between studying for his HSC with two major works in progress, writing opinion pieces for the The Sydney Morning Herald, entering and winning short story competitions and pursuing his passion for football, Jason is making the most of his final year at school.
His accomplishments in writing, which include the National Literary Award Fellowship of Australian Writers, and the Victorian Cancer Council National Arts Awards for Outstanding Children’s Writing, were a long time in the making.
“I wasn’t very good with school in Junior School, especially,” he admitted. “I really enjoyed mucking around! I started writing a lot of short stories because I was really bad at them when I was in Junior School. So, I used to write a story a week for my teacher to up the marks a little. I’d hand it in and he’d give me feedback.”
After several teachers encouraged him to submit his work to local youth writing competitions, the writing was noticed. Before long he was asked to contribute opinion pieces from a young person’s perspective for the The Sydney Morning Herald.
His most recent piece, An open letter to US high school students fighting for changes to American gun legislation, has been his most successful – and the most controversial.
“When I was asked to do a piece on gun control I knew it would spark a lot of controversy. So I was a lot more aggressive on the gun control article because I figured if I was on the fence on the issue I would be attacked from both sides,” he said. “I decided to go hard on one side. The [American pro-gun] attitude quite annoyed me. So when I was asked to write it, I jumped at the opportunity.”
Jason’s passion for writing now extends to his schoolwork. His favourite subject is Extension History. “You’re actively encouraged to bring your ideas to an essay on a subject,” he said. “It’s probably the only subject that I actually enjoy doing exams for in a way.”
Jason is also completing a second major work (a 6000-word short story) for English Extension 2, and it’s all hands on deck. “[English Extension 2] is an extremely hard and risky subject. I’m currently working with four teachers in total to help me with it, to try to work with the subjective nature of the marking,” he said. “They have provided an extreme amount of support. It’s been very good.”
Jason says those teachers (along with the ability to play football with his friends every recess, lunchtime, and weekend) are what he loves about St Andrew’s.
“I would say my favourite aspect of school is the relationships with teachers. St Andrew’s is known for student-teacher relationships being very solid,” he said. “That’s the stand-out thing for me. It gives a student a sense of confidence and a sense of security, in a way. You feel like you know you can do it.”
– Anthony Segaert