As a young child with dyslexia, Findlay Walker couldn't read, write or spell. In Year 8 she topped her English class.
In sharing her story of overcoming challenges, with the support of her family and teachers, Findlay was one of 37 regional winners of the national Heywire storytelling competition announced this week.
Sapphire Coast Anglican College was especially proud to be able to reveal the announcement at Tuesday night's school presentation in a packed Bega Valley Civic Centre.
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The following morning, to coincide with the official announcement, Findlay's story was aired on ABC South East radio.
"Mine's not a unique experience, but it is an experience of living in a rural area," Findlay, 17, of Kalaru, said.
"I wonder if I'd been to a bigger school whether I'd get the same dedicated support I've had here [at SCAC]."
Findlay said dyslexia impacted all areas of her learning and she struggled with reading, spelling, writing and maths.
However, she said a certain type of coloured lenses saw a significant change.
"I put them on and something in my brain just clicked.
"It was quite funny for me because as a young kid I didn't notice that much of a difference.
"I knew that I loved to read even though I struggled - but now I could read so I knew something was a bit different.
"But my parents and teachers noticed a huge change."
Using technology like a laptop instead of a notebook in class was also somewhat of a revelation as she was no longer slowed down by struggling to find the right spelling.
"What I think my story is more about [than the dyslexia] is how other people's reactions and encouragement have helped me," Findlay said.
"When I moved here I met a really great teacher, Tim Dowman, and his encouragement and belief in me has helped so much in my life.
"I'd never been at the top of a class before - I didn't think I even had the ability to.
"But then in Year 8 Mr Dowman seemed so happy to tell me I came top of English."
While Findlay's short-term focus is to finish her secondary schooling and HSC year, she would really like to go to uni - to study English, history or politics.
Findlay entered her story as one of hundreds from across the country in 2020 ABC's Heywire competition.
"I was really interested in trying my hand at entering any sort of writing competition...one of my teachers said Heywire was one they knew about."
The competition is open to all 16-22-year-olds who want to share their story and make a difference in their communities.
Findlay said the 37 regional winners will all gather at the week-long Heywire Regional Youth Summit in Canberra in February.
There they will have the opportunity to speak with politicians, take part in leadership seminars and activities and discuss the issues affecting rural and regional Australians.
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