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Finding Her Voice

STEM Captain and Quarter Master in the Shore Cadet Unit Tilly has newfound courage. Ignited by Cadets, it now extends across all areas of her life and is helping her tackle any challenge that comes her way.

Each week, our student leaders share their insights with their peers in Assembly.

“Being up here, giving this speech, is probably the most terrifying thing I can imagine. Public speaking has never been my thing, I could probably just say that speaking, in general, has never been my thing. I have always been a pretty reserved person. It’s not just meeting new people; it’s talking to anyone. It used to be that if I saw someone I knew ‘out in the wild’, I would find a reason to go in the other direction. And to make matters worse, if you know anyone from my family, you’ll know I’m an outsider in a raging group of performers and extroverts. Despite their efforts, this outgoing nature refuses to rub off on me.

I remember my first time making an announcement in Assembly, I was petrified I would trip over and land on my face in front of everyone. On top of that, I may or may not have been wearing the wrong socks; having Dr Scott right behind me was not the best way to keep calm.

There is no way that little Year 8 Tilly would have wanted to be anywhere near this stage, so something must have changed, right? I’m sure several things contributed. Maybe I started playing more sport, joined more clubs, or simply matured. But when I really think about it, there was one thing that really helped me: joining Cadets.

I could not tell you why I decided to join. You would think that being stuck in the middle of the bush for a week with a bunch of Shore boys I barely knew would have been my worst nightmare. But despite the hootchie-destroying storms, military-grade ration packs, and sharing porta-loos with a bunch of guys (none of which I would recommend to anyone), I found myself having an amazing time.

I was not nervous about talking to all these new people and did not feel self-conscious when working with them. I think what really made an impact was that it was such a different environment; everyone had to work together and put their “hands in”. In fact, if you took a nervous attitude, you’d probably end up lost somewhere in the middle of Singleton, and I did not really feel up to that.

So, forced into these high-pressure situations, I realised that failing to communicate would affect not just me but everyone around me. These were the situations that finally gave me the courage to connect with others. I realised that I actually love working with other people, and I’ve only grown since then.

From that experience, I met some of my closest friends, and I would probably never have talked to some of them otherwise. I went from being unable to order food, to being responsible for the stores of over 600 people, which looking back, is absolutely mind-blowing. I can now confirm that Cadets and Car Restoration are my favourite co-curricular activities (a shout-out to all my fellow STEM-inists).

I am not saying that I am suddenly perfect. I still struggle with my nerves in a lot of situations, such as participating in team sports. But now I have the courage to put my “hands in” and give it my best shot.

This is not supposed to be promotion for Cadets. I understand that it is not everyone’s cup of tea. But doing it, and trying something outside of my comfort zone, has positively affected me and my confidence.

I would love to encourage you all to do something similar - push yourselves further. Even if you are nervous, or scared, or embarrassed, I want you to go the extra mile and try something new. Because you could end up growing in ways you never expected!”