St Columba's student tops state for primary industries

A student from St Columba's Catholic College in Springwood has achieved First in Course for Primary Industries in the 2021 HSC.

Emma Watson, who lives in Springwood, received a score of 94, topping the state in the subject, which focuses on agriculture, horticulture and land management. And the 18-year-old couldn't be more delighted.

"I'm really excited," she said. "We found out on Sunday when they called us, but I wasn't allowed to tell anyone until the announcement ceremony [on Wednesday January 19].

"On Sunday night there was definitely a bottle of champagne popped in our house.

"Primary Industries was my favourite subject. I knew I was going to come first in the school from the in-school assessments. I wasn't expecting first place in state, but getting a rank was definitely what I was aiming for."

Emma's studies in 2021 had to overcome many disruptions caused by COVID-19 lockdowns - particularly for a subject such as Primary Industries that requires a great degree of practical on-site learning.

"It's a very hands-on subject, where you're there at school with the animals, and you have a tractor-driving course and stuff like that. Because we couldn't be at school to do the practical stuff, they worked out one-day workshops so we could get it all done. It was a very different environment."

She pays tribute to one particular teacher at St Columba's, Nadine Sibbald, who made a pivotal contribution to ensuring the learning environment was sustainable throughout the challenges presented by the pandemic.

"She was great. She definitely aimed to keep out motivation high, which was the main issue during COVID. She made TikToks of the animals, and sent us all these other things to keep it lighthearted."

Outgoing principal of St Columba's, Paul Ryan, was understandably proud of his student's stunning success.

"Emma is such a hard worker," he said. "Modest and humble, she put her heart and soul into her HSC and she deserves this."

"Emma has a real passion for Primary Industries and just kept pushing herself to achieve the best. We're delighted for her!"

Born in the UK, Emma's interest in agriculture, animals and land management was first kindled by her studies at St Columba's, and she credits the school's peerless agricultural facilities for fostering her passion for the subject.

She is now preparing to embark on a new chapter as a student at Western Sydney University (Penrith campus) - although the focus of her studies will not be in the subject that brought her HSC honours. Ultimately, she hopes to have a career that "combines humanitarian work with global sustainability".

"I'm doing Social Science, which is very different to Primary Industries. However, at WSU they have a show team group - animal presenting and stuff like that - which is very up my alley and related to Primary Industries, and I'm very keen to get involved with that."