A desire to raise awareness of mental health inspired 2021 Archbishop’s Awards for Student Excellence recipient, Julia Trassari, to host a whole-school push up challenge in June 2021.

The modest goal – to do a collective 3,318 push ups in 25 days was trumped in the first hour of the challenge at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College Kensington

Students and staff completed more than 20,000 push ups and raised funds for youth mental health support organisation Headspace.

“It was good not only to encourage physical activity, it also built community spirit,” Julia said. 

“Mental health is a really big topic, especially for high school students.

“I wanted to encourage a conversation about mental health, so that no person would be suffering in silence. Also, for people to realise that it affects a lot more people than we think.

“Physical activity is a great way to clear the mind.”

Julia also helped to make 150 Christmas cards to connect with and thank the school’s teachers and Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, who reside at the convent next door to her college.

She has organised Christmas hampers to donate to charity and monthly St Vincent De Paul snack packs for Sydney’s homeless.

During breaks in her home-study routine, she cycles to Botany’s Pantry 4 the People, to donate food for people who rely on the service for groceries after losing their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I love the feeling of giving, and the intrinsic warmth and fulfillment that comes of volunteering your time and skills,” Julia said.

“It feels good to use your strengths to support other people.”

Julia said she did not expect the award recognition or for her faith to grow during the pandemic.

“Not being able to go to church has inspired me to look at new ways to develop my faith on a more personal level, rather than community,” she said.

“I’ve had to put a lot of faith in God not only because of all the changes to school and HSC but also life in general.

“Watching all the media I feel like I have a renewed feeling of empathy towards others.

“It’s so important to be understanding. On the face of it people may not seem to be suffering, but underneath they could be having a hard time of it too.”