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A lifelong dream to do volunteer work overseas has just got a step closer for ACG Strathallan Head Girl, Erin O’Mara.
The big-hearted 17-year-old has received a Zonta International Young Women in Public Affairs Award – a $1500 scholarship to be spent on empowering and benefitting young women. It’s money that will be put to good use next year when Erin heads to Ghana for six months to teach children in the small village of Gomoa.
“I’ve always wanted to travel and volunteer overseas, and I thought why not do it when I’m young. I’m super excited, but terrified as well,” says Erin.
“Receiving this scholarship means so much. It has helped me pursue my dream and has showed me that people do appreciate what I do. It was truly humbling as it made me reflect on my role and my purpose, showing me I need to be more confident in my abilities and trust that I’m on the right path.”
Erin is passionate about changing lives for the better, and the seven years she has spent at ACG Strathallan have prepared her well for the challenge. She has honed her leadership skills, built resilience and inspired others through her actions.
“Being Head Girl has been a real eye-opener and has taught me so much. I’ve learnt to be a leader, to voice my opinions, and to speak up when I believe things need to change. Through my leadership and home values, I’ve learnt to give back, accept criticism and not expect credit. I’ve also learnt that it’s okay to ask for help and you can’t please everyone!
“I’ve had my share of failure and disappointment, but this has enabled me to develop resilience. Now I deal with it, get back up and try and fix my mistakes.”
While all these qualities will stand Erin in good stead for the future, her ability to inspire others is perhaps her greatest attribute.
“There were so many highlights during my time at ACG, but often it’s the moments that go unrecognised, like sitting on the field at lunch with your friends, playing around on the iPad, and all those small victories you never knew you could achieve. It’s the people I’ve met along the way, and the teachers who have seen me grow.
“But my most humbling experience by far was when the younger students told me they wanted to be like me. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything special, but I had inspired these girls to try harder. It really meant a lot that they saw something in me that they could aspire to.”
Now Erin has the chance to be a role model for children more than 16,000 kilometres away in a tiny village near Accra.
“I’m so excited to meet the children who I’ll be helping in Gomoa. I can’t wait to fulfil my dream and to push myself right out of my comfort zone. It will be interesting to see how much I’ve changed when I come back!”
One thing that’s unlikely to change though is Erin’s unwavering desire to benefit others.
“I’ve always wanted to help people in any way I can. I’m not sure what I’ll do once I get back from Ghana – I’m looking at sociology and cultural anthropology, as well as political science and psychology, so that I can volunteer overseas working in humanitarian aid or work for the UN.
“I have so many different things I want to do…I just need to see where life takes me.”