Santina Vagerakas Costanzo: Meet the Year 12 student who topped Aboriginal Studies in NSW

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When the Higher School Certificate (HSC) results were released for Year 12 students across New South Wales on Thursday, December 15, Santina Vagerakas Costanzo was overjoyed to find she had ranked first in the state in Aboriginal Studies for 2022 and received an ATAR score of 98.1.

Santina, who has Greek and Italian heritage, chose Aboriginal Studies as part of her coursework at St Scholastica’s College in the Sydney suburb of Glebe to learn more about Aboriginal history.

With a passion for understanding other cultures and the injustice of Aboriginal history, Santina not only received the top ranking in Aboriginal Studies in NSW, but was also top of her class for her major project.

The Aboriginal Studies course provides students with opportunities to learn about Aboriginal Peoples’ relationship to the Land, Aboriginal heritage and identity. Students are required to develop a major protect as part of the course to learn about project colonialism, racism and prejudice, legislation and policy, and national and international indigenous community experiences.

For her major project, Santina topped the class assessment when she created a programme called We build communities not prisons. The Year 12 student embarked on a challenging journey of interviewing elders, CEO’s and people who had been in prison for her project.

In the end, Santina had to devise a website and journal to demonstrate her ideology behind We build communities not prisons.

The Greek Herald spoke with Santina’s mum, Helen Vagerakas Costanzo, about her daughter’s achievements in Aboriginal Studies. She said there were countless hours spent in the library, as well as a tremendous amount of hard work and determination behind the completion of the project.

Helen said Santina also faced challenging moments while completing the course, in particular the major project, but continued to persevere in bringing everything together.

Santina added to The Greek Herald that she was able to overcome these challenges by maintaining a work-life balance and “not burn out.” The student also credited her experience as a day border at St Scholastica’s College as a contributor to her results.

“Having a support network both at home and school, teachers that believed in me, that went the extra mile, friends that supported me and my journey, and a resilience that I built up over my younger years by being at a school more suited to me,” Santina told The Greek Herald about the secret to her success.

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