Friday 12 February 2021

Inspiration

In the early weeks of a new year, we look for inspiration to drive motivation and sharpen the vision that will see goals identified and, with them, the satisfaction of seeing aspirations vigorously pursued and attained into the future. There is a tendency to look outward – to political, sporting and civic figures who have achieved success in their chosen field that will provide the stimulus and encouragement for others to follow suit. Rather than look outwards, inspirational figures can be found in our own backyard. I suggest we look no further than to one of the graduates of 2020, who showed what determination, goal setting, stoic resolve and hard work will achieve, and against some remarkable odds. I refer to none other than Alex Noble, whose story was scripted when he emerged from an induced coma with the words ‘I fight, you fight’. This is truly inspirational and nothing short of remarkable.

Until Year 9, Alex showed an average profile of academic achievement with a rather benign attitude to schooling. This was in contrast to his passion for Rugby and the goals he had set himself in that area. Many of the 257 new boys to the College would not know that in Year 10, Alex suffered a crippling injury, severing C4 and C5 of his vertebrae, leaving him ostensibly paralysed from the neck down. For the next 12 months, Alex moved between Intensive Care and the Spinal Care Unit at Royal North Shore, and Royal Rehab where he worked to adjust to his new life and regain function and movement, while concurrently trying to keep abreast of his studies. Landmarks that formed part of his rehabilitation included being able to brush his teeth, use a computer, feed himself and operate a wheelchair. During this time Alex missed most of his Prelim course at HSC level and returned to begin Year 12 without the necessary background to move into the graduation year. In effect, he faced the prospect of completing two years of senior study in one!

Alex’s determination and resolve hardened. In the early weeks of the year, he readjusted to school routines but was only able to attend selected classes. As he strengthened, attendance progressively increased until every lesson became part of Alex’s daily routine. Outside of intense rehabilitation, every minute was spent in learning and study, reclaiming concepts and subject matter which had been missed in the intervening period. There was a mountain to climb, but Alex’s determination to secure his HSC at the best possible level was unremitting. By the beginning of the final term of his graduation year, Alex’s progress had gone beyond anyone’s expectation – including his own. He was vying for high level achievement in a number of subjects and was even placed near the top of the class in a subject for which he had always had a particular affinity: PDHPE. When projected out, it even seemed possible that Alex could secure an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) score into the 90s. This would place him in the top 10% of the graduating cohort across New South Wales, and by dint of interstate conversion, the top 10% of the nation.

While some in the graduating cohort achieved a higher ATAR score, none eclipsed the gradient of the mountain that Alex climbed. Not only did Alex move into the top 4% of the ATAR cohort with a score of 96.7, but he was placed 3rd in NSW in PDHPE out of a student cohort of over 16,000!! Subsequently, Alex has been accepted for entry to study a double degree – Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws at UTS. In addition, he has been offered numerous scholarships which he is considering at the present time for the way that each may best suit long term plans and career options. Alex was awarded the Insignis Medal – that which is reserved for the most outstanding graduate who has excelled and contributed to the spirit of the College in his graduation year. His success is eclipsed only by the determination and resolve that has seen him climb his Everest and look towards the next horizon. As if the journey has not been noteworthy enough, Alex was also awarded Young Citizen of the Year at the Australian Day Ceremony in Ryde just weeks ago.

This is a story that needs to be told. It is a journey of ambition and hope, of emotion and hardship, of pain and resilience, of vision and an indefatigable drive of a kind that is rarely seen. And this is not only about personal achievement. Alex is trialling Exo-skeleton rehabilitation technology with Royal Rehab and assists other young men and women who have suffered spinal cord injury. He has embraced the wider Ignatian vision of being a young man for and with others, giving generously of his time and supporting those in need of his most unique abilities, strengths and gifts.

We salute Alex – an inspirational figure – and that faithful legion of supporters who have assisted him along the way.

Dr Paul Hine