9 Things I Wish I Was Told At School

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reflecting back on conversations I’ve had with over 25,000 young people in the last 5 years. After observing the trials and tribulations, their worries and concerns it has led me to put together these 9 things that I wish I knew when I was at school. As year final 12 exams are approaching for students across Australia and as new cohorts begin on the year 12 journey, hopefully some of these things will help young people to keep perspective on the journey they are going through!

You Are More Than A Mark

It can be so easy fall into thinking that whilst at school our marks define who we are. We are led to believe that for the rest of our life the success that we achieve at school will define us. Year 12 especially can be anxiety producing due to the immense pressure we and others place on ourselves. I remember the night before my first year 12 HSC exam huddled in the fetal position, trying to breathe and calm down my thinking because I felt immense pressure about what was to follow the next day. When I arrived at university I thought people would wear their ATAR on them like a badge of honour but in reality, nobody cared what marks you got in high school. They just cared about what kind of person you were! For the last 7 years, not one person in a business context has asked me or even cared what my ATAR or school marks where!

No matter what mark you end up with at the end of school there are SO MANY options to do the course you would like OR get the dream job you are after. You just have to be willing to work for it. I’m not advocating to slack off during school, actually the opposite but whatever the mark you end up with, remember it doesn’t define you.

It’s Ok To Fail

A lesson that is constantly repeated from the world of startups is that ‘it’s ok to fail’ and whilst we are told this, living it out and practicing it can be whole other endeavour!  I studied Arts at University and I remember distinctly receiving back an essay where I was given a 50/100 and I definitely should have failed. I remember feeling frustrated that no matter how little effort I put in I couldn’t fail. The lesson I wish I had been taught in that moment is that failure is an opportunity for growth and NOT you can try as little as you like but still scrape by. Learning early on that failure is inevitable at some stage in our life and developing the coping mechanisms to deal with it will set you up for success in the long run.

You Show Me Your Friends, I’ll Show You Your Future

We are told from Seligman and the founders of positive psychology that the number one indicator of the well-being of a young person is the quality of their relationships and friendships. The time we spend moving through high school will bring about a range of friendship changes, conflicts, tensions, highs and lows but at the end of the day reflect on the quality of friend that you are to others, remember what your mum always said; treat others how you would like to be treated!

In year 12 I shifted the group of people I spent time with and deliberately spent time with people who challenged me to work harder, study smarter and to reflect on the person I was becoming. This was one of the best decisions i made, not only for my wellbeing but also for my success in high school.

Find a Healthy Balance – Procrastination Kills!

BALANCE! This was my key word for my final year of school and I wish I had focused on it earlier. Whilst being diligent in your studies is important. At the end of the day, your success at school is not going to be determined by the hours you work but by how you used your time effectively and how you balance all of the bits and pieces in your life. People around you will talk about how noble they are giving up certain facets of their lives to ‘focus on study’. This is a fallacy, if you want to be successful find a healthy balance between those things that excite you and those things you have to do. I remember in year 12 my dad having to drag me away from studying so we could play badminton in the back yard with a dodgy net he found in our garage just to get me to have some kind of a balance.

The worst habit I learnt at school was how to procrastinate. If you can beat that temptation to procrastinate and set yourself good study habits this will pay dividends while at uni or in the workforce. I am still paying for it now! Imagine if all the time you spent watching videos on YouTube was spent doing your assignment!

What You Put In Is What You Will Get out

This is the simplest equation for success while at school. I really struggled with Maths at school, constantly being placed year after year in the bottom class in my grade. This reinforced the fact that I was no good at maths and the cycle continued, I didn’t try hard, I didn’t listen in class and barely ever did my homework. One day my teacher challenged me to come to a before school maths tutoring session that occurred once a week. It was a game changer! Quickly I realised that I wasn’t terrible at maths it just took more effort than my other subjects for me to get the hang of and if I put in the effort it required then I would also get the outcome I desired. It wasn’t about my ability to perform the task more so my mindset towards the task.

Your Friends Won’t Remember What You Achieved But Who You Were

Your friends won’t remember what you achieved whilst at school but the kind of person you were, the choices you made and how you treated other people.

I’m 8 years out of school this year and for the life of me, I can’t remember who won what award, who was in what sporting team or who was the smartest in my grade! I can however distinctly remember those people who cared about the success of others as much as their own, who were willing to lend me a hand when I was struggling and who always had a smile on their face even when things were stressful.

Nobody Else Has It Worked Out Either

I used to dread the ‘What do you want to do when you leave school question?’ Mainly because I thought people would discover that I didn’t have it all worked out and I would be exposed as a fraud. I looked around me and just assumed that my friends and peers knew exactly what life after school looked like. I changed my plans of what life looked like post school almost hundreds of times, from taking a gap year, to going to uni, to getting a job it was all up in the air! The job I am in now wasn’t a long executed plan but merely a series of fortunate events and opportunities presented at the right times.

The MAGIC Formula – Eat Well, Sleep Well, Exercise Well

I discovered the magic formula not long after I left school! I’m still struggling to put it into action but I am slowly getting better! There are three key things that will look after your wellbeing well especially during the final year. They are how well you are eating, how well you are sleeping and how often you are exercising. Science shows us time and time again that a focus on these three things will not only improve your productivity but reduce your stress levels and help with your memory retention! This doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon every day or only eat superfoods. It means you need to monitor and be aware of how well you do these things. Even finding someone to keep you accountable to these things, it will pay off in the long run!

People Post Online What They Want You To See

The digital world is a construction, there I said it! What you see online of other people isn’t who they really are but a construction of who they would like to be! Comparisons are the thief of joy and the more time we spend comparing ourselves to the constructed lives of others the more time we spend worrying about something that simply isn’t true. This doesn’t mean I’m advocating for us to just post about the negatives in our lives, or to avoid social media! I just don’t want you to forget that other people’s lives often aren’t as perfect as they make them out to be!



Continue your student’s leadership or wellbeing journey with our digital programs. Specifically designed to be flexibly implemented into your wellbeing or leadership programs, these courses can be completed at any time in any place, providing a self-paced option for students to explore in class or on their own. These modules include individual student logins, a teacher dashboard to track student progress and lesson plans with follow up face to face resources.

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I found Burn Bright in the midst of studying civil engineering at the University of Wollongong, just as I wanted a richer, deeper, more full experience of life.

Through Burn Bright, I have met many students and volunteers who are all seeking to find their place in the world. When we come together at NLC or SLC, no matter our age, we begin on the same page, of wanting to do good for ourselves, our community, and the world. And then we are thrown into a program that brings us closer to each other, our purpose, and how to bring forth this impact. It’s like having your cake and eating it too.

Volunteering with Burn Bright stoked a fire in me – It helped me feel comfortable in myself and made me realise life isn’t just about work, study, or productivity, but our relationships and how we connect with others along the way.

I have learned skills in videography, worked for a top-tier corporation in marketing, and most recently published a book called “18 and lost? So were we” 

I have a passion for storytelling, bring loads of energy wherever I go, and am dedicated to helping young people move through the initiation of leaving high school and going into the ‘real world’. 

The best part for me is being able to stay connected to the latest generation growing through high school. To see them grow, expand and express more of themselves is like watching an artwork paint itself. It’s magic.

I am Simon Thurston, a Kiwi based in Perth. I work as an Instructional Designer and in my spare time I enjoy reading, running, and board games.

Since my initial connection to Burn Bright I have been onboard with their mission. Burn Bright’s focus on building the capabilities enables students of all ages to see how they can shape their world through connections with others and their own self discovery.

Seeing others grow, learn, and open up is what keeps me coming back, to help others realise their potential and how they can influence their future and their community is a definite highlight. It’s infectious, the atmosphere when they run a program or camp is welcoming, exciting, emotional, and rewarding all in one.



Hi, friends! I’m Kelsie, a psychologist from central QLD working in private practice. I got involved with Burn Bright officially in 2016, but the journey started long before that. I attended the National Leadership Camp (now hosted annually by Burn Bright) in 2009. It had such a profound impact on me that I returned as a mentor and volunteer. Those connections ultimately lead me to joining the Burn Bright team as an adult.

When I transitioned from facilitating with the Burn Bright team to working as a psychologist, I was so grateful for an incredible foundation of skills (particularly facilitation, communication and interpersonal skills) along with a strong grounding in positive psychology that Burn Bright integrates into their ethos.

I can’t imagine my life without volunteering for Burn Bright. I have met some of my dearest friends through the Burn Bright crew. I’ve found that volunteering for BB is rewarding, humbling, and often brings as much personal growth for the volunteer as it does for the young person.

From a professional perspective, I love that Burn Bright programs/camps support the adolescent individuation process by providing an exciting and supportive environment for teens to explore their own sense of self, personality, identify and values alongside other young people.

Imagine this POV: you’re back at school wanting to figure everything out and fit in – and you find
yourself in a room with amazing music that uplifts you and hooks you in. You meet the team of
dynamic, interesting, caring facilitators whose own friendships inspire you. Their facilitation skills bring about amazing light-bulb moments and lessons that light a fire inside you… It makes me want to feel that for myself again. The next best thing, for me, is volunteering for the team who passes that on to other young people.

My start at Burn Bright is one of the best cases of one door closing and another door opening. After losing my job at a local pub while on uni holidays, I started looking for new opportunities that were different and decided to volunteer. Searching for opportunities, I found working bees, community driving and nursing home visits, but the chance to become a National Leadership Camp intern stood out. Over nearly six months, I worked with the team to pull off Burn Bright’s first National Leadership Camp, and had an absolute blast in the process. After camp, I started working for Burn Bright while studying, doing anything and everything — data analysis, hiring strategy and even picking up furniture.

Finishing up working for Burn Bright in 2019, I am still actively involved with the Burn Bright volunteer community. I’ve found that the emphasis placed on investing in your relationships, understanding your values and making an impact allow you to be accepted for you. This has given me the tools needed to make the difficult decisions that life will inevitably throw at you. Besides all that, I’ve had a ton of fun and formed life-long friendships with people I may have never crossed paths with otherwise. “Get involved — you’ll change your life for the better and make life‑long friends in the process”.

I am a health science student from Perth wanting to get into the mental health realm of occupational therapy. In the meantime, I work as a barista and supervisor at a beachside café. In my spare time, I love to play netball, be around my friends and I have just gotten into crocheting. I went to Perth College where I was lucky enough to go to the first Perth College Leadership Camp in 2018 as a student and absolutely loved it. What really drew me in was the atmosphere that was created, the open conversations, and the lasting relationships formed.

Since then I have been a mentor for the Perth College Leadership Camp in 2019, 2020, and 2021 and had the opportunity to go to the National Leadership Camp in 2019. When Burn Bright comes to Perth I also love helping out at their programs as much as I can.

Volunteering for Burn Bright has given me so much that I could never have imagined. I have learned so much about myself and I have so much more confidence in myself and my abilities that I know I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t exposed to the amazing opportunities volunteering for Burn Bright has given me. Before being involved I would never have seen myself being a mentor, role model, and facilitator to students, but now I can confidently say that I am, and I have made an impact on others that I am proud of. I have also made so many meaningful connections to so many amazing people from all around Australia through Burn Bright. I get asked quite a bit why I keep coming back to my old school to volunteer and it’s simply because I was given this amazing opportunity to be a part of the Burn Bright programs and if I can help facilitate that experience to someone else then why wouldn’t I?

I was born in Perth and moved to Sydney in my early 20’s to continue work as a youth worker and surfboard maker. This was followed by 30 years working in IT as a computer programmer.

Following retirement in 2016 I searched for an organisation that was aligned with my values of servant leadership and service, especially in the youth space. This search led to Burn Bright where I am now volunteering one day a week and mentoring at the National Leadership Camp. Volunteering with Burn Bright gives me a great deal of hope and confidence in the next generation of leaders. It is a pleasure to be a part of the Burn Bright family.

I have been married to Denise for 41 years and we both very much feel part of the Burn Bright team.

When not at Burn Bright you may find me running along Manly beach, riding my mountain bike or indulging in my passion for photography.











Hi! I’m Rosie, a 20-something full-time public servant, part-time Tassie tourism advocate.

I am passionate about seeing young people succeed, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching them become the next generation of change-makers.

I have been a champion of the ethos and work of Burn Bright since its inception in 2014, and consider them to be the leading experts in their field. By delivering impactful leadership and wellbeing programs to students across Australia, they offer the knowledge, skills and engagement to invoke lasting positive change in school communities.

The Burn Bright team are dedicated, inclusive and values-driven, which is why I love working with them.