Erin Horan is only 16, yet already she has set her sights on becoming an astrophysicist when she leaves school.
Her dream of studying what is considered one of the most challenging scientific fields is impressive.
Should she succeed, she will be the first in her family to go to university – a fact that is not lost on the aspiring astrophysicist.
“It would be special, knowing that I'm the first in my family, and I wouldn't take it for granted," Erin said.
“Mum and Dad would be really proud."
Erin is one of 11 Our Lady's College students involved in a mentoring program aimed at forging higher education pathways for senior students.
CoMPASS – A Collaboration of Minds: Professionals Advancing Senior Students, connected high achieving Year 11 students with expert professionals across a broad range of fields, including architecture, engineering, physiotherapy and medicine.
Our Lady's Principal Paula Goodwin said the program was designed to help build an understanding of a profession of interest, particularly for prospective 'first-in-family' university students.
“The initiative came about as a number of our senior students, who are interested in tertiary education at the end of their senior schooling, would be the first in their family's history to study at university and gain a degree to pursue a chosen professional career," she said.
“We wanted to provide extra support for these high performing students to reach their potential and live out our school motto: Ever Higher or 'Ad Altiora' in Latin.
“We are so proud of this group of bright, determined young women and we look forward to seeing them flourish as they enter their last year of schooling with us."
Year 11 student Saarsha Lucas said being mentored by a professional architect, Emma Healy, had given her valuable insight into the field.
She now plans to do work experience in Ms Healy's architecture firm over the Christmas school holidays and, following that, to study architecture at university after graduating high school.
“I'm so grateful for the experiences and opportunities I've had with the CoMPASS program," she said.
“My parents weren't in a position where they were able to go to university.
“My mum is extremely excited about me going to uni, and both mum and dad are really supportive."
Since beginning the CoMPASS journey in May, the students met regularly with their mentors who provided valuable first-hand information and advice about the demands of the role.
Each student created multi-model presentations reflecting their learnings, with prizes awarded to the first, second and third placed recipients.
The program culminated in a CoMPASS showcase finale held at the University of Queensland's Global Change Institute on August 26.
CoMPASS was a joint initiative of Our Lady's College, Brisbane Catholic Education and the University of Queensland.
“Our Lady's College acknowledges and are grateful for the support of our partners," Mrs Goodwin said.
“A very important thank you is also extended to Acting Assistant Principal: Teaching and Learning: Kate Brims, who has worked tirelessly to lay strong foundations for this program in the College."
Erin Horan and Saarsha Lucas will be the first in their families to study at university.
Astrophysist Janie Hoormann and Erin Horan
Architect Emma Healy and Saarsha Lucas