A story of incredible grit and resilience plus tips from our psychologists

The Year 9 & 10 ACC Sport students had the privilege of listening to Joel Sardi, from the Class of 2008. With the significant challenges facing all students now, Joel’s story was one of perspective, inspiration, and hope – for our boys, a timely reminder that they can achieve anything if they put their minds to it. To use Joel’s words, “You are unbreakable.”

After a tour in Afghanistan as an infantryman in 2013 in the Australian army, Joel returned home only to suffer horrific injuries because of a shocking accident. Having fallen three metres to the ground and landing on his back, Joel became a C5 quadriplegic. He spoke to the students about feeling sorry for himself and at his lowest, struggling to find the will to live.

He made a critical decision and raised the funds to fly to the USA and join a rehabilitation program called ‘Project Walk’. This program is designed to improve the lives of people who have suffered paralysis due to a spinal cord injury. Slowly, his perspective started to change; “Maybe I can do this.” With this change in perspective, Joel spoke about how his narrative also changed. He started to set small goals and vowed that he would stand unaided by the end of his treatment – he did! With this change in perspective and subsequent change in his narrative, the outcomes for Joel changed as well. Joel married his partner, who had been by his side throughout his entire ordeal, and they had their first child in 2020.

Joel’s message to the boys was, “You create what is possible.” In this current situation where much seems hopeless, the idea of looking at what is possible, rather than what is not, was a salient point for our boys (and staff) and one which will help them deal with the challenges before them. I thank Joel, and Mr Height for organising this presentation, for sharing his story and wisdom with our boys.

Tips from the Psychologists

We are lucky to have three wonderful College Psychologists who work daily with our boys, parents, and our staff – Erin Lindley, Allison Ball and Rebecca Sneddon. They have been providing advice and guidance through our Wellbeing Program, to help our boys navigate these difficult times. This week’s ‘Tip’ focuses on separating school from home; a challenge when these two worlds have merged. The purpose of this theme is to help the boys create a focussed environment for school then ensure they can separate from this and create time for enjoyment, relaxation and other activities which will help them feel good.

  • Structure your day around school time and take breaks at regular recess/lunch time – during these breaks, step away from your desk and screen and either go outside or to a different room in your house
  • Have a separate spot in your house (e.g., study desk) where you sit during “school time” – try to avoid your bedroom (if possible) and especially sitting or lying on your bed – as this can impact on your sleep as your brain associates your bed with being alert, awake and working (or the opposite, you feel sleepy when you are trying to concentrate and be alert)
  • Create a routine each morning before the start of the school day – e.g., Get up, have a shower, have breakfast, brush teeth before logging on…
  • Create cues to separate school and relaxing time – before the start of the school day, walk outside your front door (and even around the block), then come back inside to start your school day
  • Get dressed into certain clothes at the start of the school day and then change out of them when the school day is finished.
  • Close your laptop when you are finished with school at the end of the day.

Mick Lafferty

Deputy Principal – Students