Jess Stuart, Year 12 (you might know her as our Head Girl for 2017).

Interview conducted by Jess Croudace and Simonie Jenkins of Year 9.

Hi Jess, it's so nice to try getting to know you more personally on here after hearing you speak at all the assemblies! Do you mind sharing an interesting/shocking/embarrassing story about yourself?

Sure! my first drama production was of Macbeth when I was in kindergarten.
The most embarrassing moment I have had on stage was when I was 8 at my Ballet Dance Concert. Half way through the performance my skirt came undone and I had to hold it up for the rest of the performance… I still have the video.

Do you have a sneak peak into what our banner + catchphrase will be for 2017? What's your vision for the school?

I can’t say yet what the catchphrase or the banner will look like but I hope that next year we will raise the bar for all of our girls and encourage everyone to embrace their Pymble pride.

I would really like to communicate the message about mental health and how a simple question to a friend can mean the world. Are you okay. Mental health is becoming a larger issue in today’s society with mounting pressure on students to perform well. Girls just need to know that they have friends and teachers to help them through the tough times. I think to educate our Pymble girls in what to do if a friend turns around and says they are not okay is the next step for us as a school.

That definitely sounds like something we should all work towards in the new year! What first went through your head when you were announced as our Head Girl?

Not a lot really went through my head at first, I was just so shocked. I had never been that shocked before. It was like taking a step back and looking at yourself from the crowd. My mind was just completely blank. Afterwards, I thought ‘wow this is going to be a really big year’ but after talking to Laura and Jess, I realised that it was manageable.
I called my parents after I got the news and my mum didn’t believe me and my dad was like “…you mean Deputy?” I had to convince them it was true – then they were both really happy for me.

What's one thing you want to start with to improve life at Pymble?

One thing I’d do to improve Pymble? I would definitely start by making sure that everyone had perfect uniform. I believe that this is important because it reflects the school’s reputation and also shows our values and our community spirit. Perfect uniform also reflects a respectful attitude, and teachers won’t have to tell us to fix the uniform that should already be perfect. I aim to also shift everyone’s attitudes a bit for a collaborative year ahead because school shouldn’t be a place where you dread going, it should be a challenge that you are ready to face with a positive attitude every day.

That makes me really look forward to your leadership - speaking of which, what's the most important quality for a leader? In your opinion :)

It’s all about the people you lead. I think that to be a good leader you have to have the ability to motivateencourageand lead by example.

Ahaha I can definitely see that quality in you at the induction assembly:
What was the biggest challenge you've faced?

The biggest challenge I faced last year in my role as Dance Captain was the balance between my peers as their friend and as their leader.
This is a very delicate balance which many of you will face in the future especially when you have previously had an equal influence and responsibility to your peers before your leadership role. To then step up and find yourself leading your friends can sometimes be uncomfortable or strenuous on friendships.

So how were you able to overcome this?

I needed to be loyal to my peers, keep their confidentiality and earn their trust so that they could come to me at any time with problems. I did this because I feel that as a leader you need to understand the issues with the program and how each girl feels before you even begin to address those concerns.
I would then put this issue in front of the staff I was working with and offer strategies in which we could make sure that no one else had the same problem again.
I also had to be the voice for the staff. I found that the most effective way was to ask the girls what they would do if they were in a staff member’s position. Often stepping back and looking at things from another perspective is very useful as it gives people an idea of the bigger picture and what the broader community is trying to achieve.
In this way I could improve the program, address its weaknesses and still remain a close, loyal friend to many of my dance peers.

That's awesome...what motivates you to dance, be kind, work hard, and do so many amazing things?

I push myself to be the best I can be and I don’t turn away any opportunity that is offered to me. I do what gives me the most joy so that every day there is something I can look forward to. For example, dance gives me a pathway to let go and be in the moment. And I think beautiful moments like these are essential to your wellbeing and your perspective on life!
Also, I always set goals for the future that keep me motivated.

Tell us all about finding the rhythm - balancing between the HSC, dance, drama, social life, sleep, and leadership responsibilities?
Any tips?

Yeah being Head Prefect and Dance Captain (with Showcase and many other events to look forward to), I'll definitely be challenged this term ahaha :)

I would have to say that sleep is the most crucial thing to finding a good balance that works for you! Next would be to work on your ability to prioritise your work and to eliminate stress from your week. Stress leads to procrastination and you end up wasting precious time. I find it is helpful to have a large calendar overview of the term with, and then take each task one by one by using your diary.

Officeworks and Woolworths will become your favourite shops. Officeworks for school stuff (literally, your one stop school shop) and Woolworths for food – both open really late.

When you have stuff due, break it up into small parts. This is very helpful for girls with short attention spans.

A bit about the dance life at Pymble...how'd you get started and what's your favourite type of dance?

I started dancing when I was 2 and a half years old, and have loved it ever since. I’ve done ballet, jazz, tap (in NYC), contemporary and lyrical. I think that my favourite type of dance is school dance because we are a team as well as dancers. When I come to school dance, I am surrounded by girls who do dance and love being in a team environment. At my other dance company, I am doing Advanced Ballet 2 and a lot of the other girls want to do dance full time. I find that there is nothing like Pymble’s dance family and that is why it is my favourite.

What's the most outrageous costume you've had to dance in?

I once had to wear a dance costume that was a long cloak that went down to about mid-calf length that was silver and blue. It was a strange costume but I soon discovered that it worked really well with the whole dance. Also, one year I was a tree and then another year I was a blue bird!
This year, for the Dance Showcase, we have large bow-ties – because we are clowns, which also makes our costume interesting.
I have learned that you have to embrace the strange aspects of the costumes because that is all part of having a great time dancing.

This has been so great, thank you for sharing so much and in such detail. Any words of advice younger girls should keep in mind entering the new school year?

Don’t listen to others, do what you want to do.
I didn’t do much in Year 7 and I have only just realised how many opportunities are offered to us on a silver platter. Grab as many opportunities as you possibly can off that plate and never stop trying because you have nothing to lose by giving it a go!
I also tried really hard to be in the ‘popular’ clique, when I should have focused on being my unique self. Don’t listen to others, do what you want to do. Be yourself and embrace your weirdness! Being cool isn’t the most important thing at school, having a group of friends who accept you for who you are (naturally, not trying to be popular) is more important because they are the girls who will stick with you the whole way through.

Thanks so much Jess.

You're most welcome, good luck!

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