Last month, Louka McAllister received an HSC ATAR of 97 - the highest ever awarded to a Shearwater graduate, with two Band 6 results (indicating a mark over 90) and five Band 5s, or equivalent.
After two years immersed in the full spectrum of academic subjects - Physics, Chemistry, Advanced and Extension Maths, and Advanced and Extension English 1 and 2, as well as Business Studies “just for fun”, Louka is enjoying a big breath out this year - getting his hands dirty, working for a friend’s roofing business and saving some money for travel, before starting a university Science degree in “Physics, Maths or both”.
He laughs when I ask about the roofing and admits he learnt a thing or two apart from advanced calculus, during his 15 years at Shearwater.
"I’m probably not the most handy person but I know my way around a little bit. I definitely enjoyed subjects like metalwork and woodwork in the younger years of High School. Even though I didn’t end up pursuing those subjects, it was a good opportunity to explore them and get some more skills."
With offers of places into Bachelor of Science degrees at his two universities of choice, Louka is pleased with his HSC results. “The only thing I was a bit disappointed about was that I had really high Band 5s, just missing out on a Band 6, in three subjects,” he says.
Like so many before him, Louka says “the camps!” when asked about his best memories of Shearwater. “They were just amazing life experiences,” he says. “And at the end of the day, I don’t think I was worse off for missing out on time in the classroom.”
“I did consider going to another school at the end of Year 10. The big thing that kept me here was actually the Vanuatu camp! And also the relationships. I think we have a much tighter-knit class community than a lot of other schools and I really enjoy that. And the relationships with teachers are a lot closer and more personal.”
Louka’s maths teacher through High School, Oren, described the class as “pure joy”. “There was a culture of diligence, hard work, laughter and friendship that deepened and grew,” he said. “By the end of Year 12, the class had achieved the best HSC maths result ever recorded at the School.”
“At Shearwater, you get a lot of education that’s not just in the classroom,” says Louka. “But you can also do really well academically here. If you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll get a lot of support from your teachers.
“I also definitely prefer the smaller class sizes. Most of my classes were around eight people, which, means you get a lot more one-on-one time."
With a well-trod trail between Shearwater and Melbourne, Louka says he’s likely to land in that southern city next year.
“The plan was always to go to Melbourne because that’s where I want to live. From Melbourne Uni you can walk to the MCG! Also Melbourne Uni is the best ranked for Science. But the Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Advanced Studies degree at Sydney Uni is also really good, so I still haven’t quite made up my mind."
His sights set on a career as a research scientist, with postgraduate study and possibly a PHD, Louka is nonetheless open to whatever the exciting world of acadademia sends his way.
“I always thought I was interested in pure maths but there are a lot of new areas in maths that are really interesting. I found out the other day you can do mathematical biology, where they map tumour growth in brains…”
We will be sharing more stories from our Class of 2021 (and other Shearwater alumni) over the year, and we congratulate them all on their achievements, and wish them well on their onward journeys.
The shearwaters gathered and looked to the sky
On hearing their guide in the winds that swept by
They answered as one as their wings stroked the air,
And set out on a journey they all would share.
(From Shearwater’s school song, Shearwater Pacifica)