Among the thousands of young people who recently finished their schooling is one young man whose successful completion of the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) ranks as an extraordinary achievement.
Templestowe College graduate Zac Wood is very bright, has a wicked sense of humour and loves English and Media, but his path to completion has not always been easy.
Twenty-year-old Zac was born with Morquio syndrome, also known as Mucopolysaccharidosis Type IV (MPS IV), a rare metabolic disorder in which the body cannot process certain types of sugar molecules called glycosaminoglycans.
The condition has led to numerous complications. At just under one metre tall with a very fragile spine, Zac has been a wheelchair user for most of his school life.
Zac began his VCE studies in 2014, and needed surgery to realign his spinal cord. Disaster struck in December 2015 when an operation to stabilise his airway was unsuccessful and Zac became quadriplegic. He was forced to live in hospitals for about three years of his life.
Lately Zac has been able to move into supported accommodation outside of a clinical setting.
The drive to study
Zac says that learning that he was quadriplegic gave rise to a self-examination about his life aspirations.
'I had to re-evaluate where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do but school was always at the top of my priority list,' Zac says.
'When I returned to school I did Accounting Units 3&4 and this year [I completed] Business Management Units 3&4, which [was my] last VCE subject.
'The main reason why I chose to come back was to finish what I started and complete VCE [and] I'm looking forward to graduating.'
In his time Templestowe College he has been involved in a wide range extra curricula activities including the Leadership Group, the Curriculum Committee, staff interview panels and various school clubs.
The support to succeed
Kelly Trintopoulos is Zac's Educational Support worker. She met Zac in 2011 when he was in Year 7 and they have worked alongside each other for a long time.
'Since becoming quadriplegic his persistence, determination and commitment to completing his studies and realising his goals despite the obstacles that he faces, astounds me daily,' Kelly says.
At the heart of a good education is a positive learning relationship. Kelly has worked consistently with Zac since he returned to school for the Head Start Program in December 2017, and now he has completed his VCE.
Zac's story demonstrates the importance of effective educational support in an inclusive school environment.
'Kelly has been dedicated to assisting me in my studies,' Zac says. 'She has helped me organize and run a staff footy tipping competition for a number of years and is very committed to helping me achieve the best possible results throughout my senior years of high school.'
Zac likes to focus on what he 'can do' and this positive attitude has taken him a long way – it appears that Zac 'can do' a great deal.