Two Blue Mountains students have been selected on a historical journey of a lifetime. They will be part of a group of six young Anzac ambassadors to travel to sacred Australian historical sites including Gallipoli, France, Ypres, and will also attend the Westminster Abbey Remembrance Day Service this year.
The students will be expected to talk to the community on the importance of the Anzac legacy after their trip and throughout early 2015.
Developed by Baulkham Hills MP David Elliott, the Premier's parliamentary secretary on the Anzac centenary, the essay prize invited high school students aged 16 to 18 in the 14 local government areas of western Sydney to take part.
St Columba's Catholic College students, Sam Lewis, from Year 10 and Madison Thompson from Year 11, will leave on their 11-day ClubsNSW sponsored trip in November.
They were selected for their trip after their 1000 word essays on why the Centenary of Anzac is so important to modern Australia, were chosen as one of the six best by a panel which included Mr Elliott, Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage, former Premier Nathan Rees and Major General Warren Glenny, among others.
Mrs Sage, who will accompany them on the trip, said she was delighted two students out of the six chosen were from the Blue Mountains region and they would be expected to keep a diary and report back to their communities about the experience and the importance of the Anzac legacy.
"It's going to be a life changing experience for these kids and they are going to have a unique opportunity to be ambassadors. All of the entries were superb so I am especially proud that two of our Blue Mountains students were chosen."
Mr Elliott said it was important that "western Sydney students were written into the script of the Centenary [of the Anzac story]."
"The full narrative of the Anzac legacy is often understated in our schools," Mr Elliott said.
"While Gallipoli is certainly the most well-known aspect of the Anzac story, the efforts of Australian soldiers on the Western Front, be it in Villers-Bretonneux, Ypres or Passchendaele, played just as significant a role in shaping our national ethos.
Madison Thompson said she was excited by the "incredible opportunity" and very grateful.
"I am so honoured to be a part of this experience and ever thankful to those who have enabled it."
Samuel Lewis, who had ancestors who fought in World War I, said he was "keen to see where they fought". "It's a massive privilege to be selected and I'm honoured to be part of it."
Premier Mike Baird, who made the winning announcements at a breakfast at Parramatta RSL Club on Monday, told the students the Anzacs "were the same age as you, they decided to protect their country and this great nation".
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to these places that were so significant in the history of this nation. It's a huge responsibility but with it comes an incredible opportunity."
ClubsNSW CEO Anthony Ball said the trip was highly relevant in the centenary year. "It's now more important than ever to encourage younger Australians to actively engage in ensuring the Anzac legacy lives on," he said.
Other winners included: Lihini de Silva from Baulkham Hills High School, Emily Frey from Quakers Hill High School, Jack Jeffries from Parramatta Marist High School and Dan Nguyen from Hurlstone Agricultural High School.