Overcoming hurdles on the track and in the classroom

 (Courtesy of Scarlett Pye)

(Courtesy of Scarlett Pye)

17-year-old Australian track and field star Scarlett Pye writes about petitioning to study engineering at the local boys’ school and earning top marks in her class.

Scarlett Pye knows what is is like to overcome obstacles on the track — she currently holds several state hurdles titles after all. But she also knows what it is like to overcome obstacles in the classroom. When faced with the dilemma that her girls’ school didn’t offer engineering classes, Scarlett petitioned to study the subject at a local boys’ school.

In a piece for Malala Fund’s Game Changers series, the 2020 Olympic hopeful writes about her passion for engineering and determination to pursue the subject.

The most honest and defining lessons in my life have come from running. Running teaches you a lot about yourself — the good and the ugly! The lessons you learn are what sets you apart from others. It is what builds character and better equips you for challenges that lie ahead.

I’ve always had a great interest in buildings and structures. The simplicity and strength of lines and angles. How man can create beautiful, timeless landmarks that define whole cities. I’ve always wanted to be a part of that process.

I’ve always had a great interest in buildings and structures. The simplicity and strength of lines and angles... I’ve always wanted to be a part of that process.
— Scarlett Pye

I attended a girls’ school. Mine is a very modern and forward-thinking educational institution with a proud history of encouraging girls to be the best they can be.

Unfortunately for me though, engineering was not offered as a course choice. I was very disappointed, but undiscouraged. I come from a family that fosters an attitude of pursuing goals. I discovered that the neighboring boys’ school offered engineering. I petitioned to my principal to study off-campus at the boys’ school.

 Scarlett received the Pierre de Coubertin Award from the Australian Olympic Committee — the highest honour given to a high school senior! (Courtesy of Scarlett Pye)

Scarlett received the Pierre de Coubertin Award from the Australian Olympic Committee — the highest honour given to a high school senior! (Courtesy of Scarlett Pye)

First reactions were not encouraging. I was told that I was taking on probably more than I could handle. I would not be given any preferential treatment and would have to make up in my own time missed lessons conducted at the girls’ school whilst I was attending engineering class at the boys’ school and vice versa. This meant a lot of late nights and weekends of extra study. The boys’ school principal was very supportive and offered me a place amongst a class of 20+ boys. An agreement was eventually struck up between me, my mum and the schools. I was soon amongst my fellow engineering students — eager and excited.

I was very fortunate that the boys made me feel included and welcomed. I had very supportive teachers at both schools that helped me face the challenges that came my way.

Whilst studying, I was also competing and training at a state and national level. In fact, I competed at my State Track and Field Championships where I won gold for the 400 metre hurdles the day before I sat for the first of six exams for my Higher School Certificate. The harder you work the more you get out! The late nights and weekends spent juggling study and training had been worth it!

I heard a wonderful speaker address a graduating university class. One piece of advice he gave rang true to me: “Any obstacle, hurdle or barrier is just meant to go over, around or through.”

If you have a dream, pursue it. The road to achieve it will have bumps and holes, twists and turns, but never lose sight of the end goal. Be flexible. When one door closes, it gives the opportunity for another door to open and reveal another path. Be kind and encouraging to others. Don’t let someone’s assumptions of what you are not capable of achieving become your mindset.


 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scarlett Pye is a 17-year-old student and runner from Australia.