Topping State did not really extend Mattea
By DAWN COHEN
TURNING 18 today will be that much sweeter for HSC graduate Mattea Cussel knowing she topped the State in history extension.
The dux of Alstonville High was one of 114 outstanding students in NSW honoured at a Sydney ceremony yesterday for achieving first place and the highest standard possible in a 2005 NSW HSC course.
"They told me on Tuesday, but I had to keep it secret," Mattea said.
"My mum told me the Board of Studies wanted me to call.
"I assumed it was something bad, like they had lost my papers.
"When I called back I was in a doctor's surgery.
"The guy on the phone told me I had come first, and I just screamed.
"He kept saying, 'Please don't. You are in a public place. We have to keep it quiet until Thursday'.
"When I did the exam I was particularly happy with it. It was really relaxed and I knew that I knew it. I was able to enjoy doing it.
"But I didn't expect to do that well."
The Alstonville resident flew to Sydney yesterday with her parents, Colin Cussel and Rose Perkins, for the award ceremony at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
"It was good, but getting the phone call was really great," she said.
When she talks about her former school and her history teacher, David Schein, her gratitude is palpable.
"He taught me from Year 9," she said. "It is a difficult subject. You learn complex ideas, but somehow he always made it seem very clear."
Mattea plans to do an arts degree, either in law or media and communication at Sydney University.
"Now I know I definitely should do history," she said. "It is a subject I naturally loved rather than slogging away at it.
"Hopefully the result will help me get a scholarship."
Mattea moves to Sydney next week.
For a full round-up on the region's HSC stars with pictures and interviews see tomorrow's Northern Star.