For those that know Kellon Beard it is hard to believe the silver-haired, unfailingly polite Port Macquarie business leader was anything but a model student who aced his final exams at school.
But Mr Beard tells the Port News that was not the case.
“I certainly wasn’t the brightest tool in the shed and when I finished year 10 I saw a career guidance counsellor,” he said.
“The career counsellor said that based on my grades there was no point in doing year 11 and 12.
“They told me that I should look at a trade, but ‘try plastering or bricklaying’ because I wasn’t smart enough to be an electrician.”
Part of the problem Mr Beard said was that he had done his schooling up until year nine at Patrician Brothers’ College in Blacktown and when he moved to St Joseph’s Regional College in Port Macquarie he couldn’t continue with some of his subjects.
Mr Beard said while his confidence was dented by what happened at school he didn’t let it define him.
“I think I was too young to be too upset but at the time I think I listened to them too much,” he said.
“My father was a painter and I knew one thing for sure was I didn’t want to be painter.”
So he got a job at Woolies and through a colleague scored an electrical apprenticeship.
“I started to do well at work and it gave me confidence,” he said.
After a few years he wanted to “get off the tools” so he enrolled in a TAFE course.
“I was working three jobs, studying and getting on average five hours sleep,” he said.
The TAFE teacher noticed his dedication and encouraged him to go to university as a mature age student which he did.
He then progressed through the ranks of the public service and eventually, once he was married, moved back to Port Macquarie because he didn’t want to raise a family in Sydney.
“I didn’t have a job in Port Macquarie but I believed in myself,” he said.
He has been the leader of the Mid North Coast NSW Business Chamber for the last 14 years.
Last year he even graduated from CSU with a Master in Commerce.
His advice for young people?
“Believe in yourself and follow your dreams regardless of how you do at school,” he said.
Mr Beard said a bad HSC score is not the “end of the road but basically just a speed bump”.
“Build on your skills as you go,” is another lesson he learnt.
Forty-one-year-old Kylie Short can relate to Mr Beard’s journey.
She now is the successful business owner of Port Macquarie company MagnifyUp, happily married with three children.
But her future wasn’t always so promising.
The eldest child of a single mother, she grew up in the small town of Narromine in the Central West.
She worked two jobs at high school.
“I gave what I had to my mum,” she said.
“I basically just had to step up and co-parent my younger siblings because I was in charge after school when my mum was working.”
She readily acknowledges she had a “massive chip on her shoulder” from being a “houso kid”.
“I grew up in housing commission,” she said.
“As soon as you told someone where you lived you were judged.”
Mrs Short wanted to go to university to study communications but knew her mother could never afford to send her far away.
In her final year at school, while working a number of jobs, she dropped one of her subjects (visual arts) because her final project she felt wasn’t up to standard.
“I was a perfectionist,” she said.
It left Mrs Short one unit short of receiving her HSC.
“I went through all my exams knowing I wouldn’t get an HSC,” she said.
“At no point did anyone at the school say I think you should do visual arts because you are not going to get your HSC.”
While the situation wasn’t ideal she wasn’t deterred.
She was offered a full-time position at a grocery store and then a TAFE teacher suggested she study accounting.
She loved it but got sick with pneumonia and had to drop out.
“Then there was a feeling of I was never going to complete anything :” she said.
But the next year when she moved to Bathurst with her husband Lincoln she did finish the accounting course at TAFE.
“Once I found something I was truly interested in I just hit my groove,” she said.
Soon she couldn’t stop studying.
“I always knew education was the key,” she said.
Her current business provides bookkeeping, BAS Agent services, training and cloud integration to both local clients and those interstate.
“Looking back the high school environment was not right for me and had I had the right support and counselling it may have been different,” Mrs Short said.
Her advice to young people?
“Ask questions and know that high school isn’t forever,” she said.
“Your career path isn’t a straight line but a winding journey. Just know that there are multiple ways to get the education and training you need for the career you want.”
Unlike Mrs Short and Mr Beard, graphic designer Jay Beaumont did receive an HSC final score. But his results wasn’t enough to get into university.
Mr Beaumont said he “hated school” at Lasalle Catholic College in Bankstown.
“I was very much a C student,” he said.
In his final two years of school his parents knew they needed to give their son a change of scene.
They sent him to live with his grandparents in Gosford where he went to Henry Kendall High School.
“I liked the public school environment, suddenly there were girls around which as a young boy I liked,” he joked.
Despite finding his groove with art he still had to do the “fundamentals, maths and English” for his HSC.
His final mark of 73 didn’t allow him to study graphic design at university.
“The best graphic design school was in Ultimo but I didn’t have a good enough score so I went to a private visual communications college.”
Now he is doing what he loves, working as a graphic designer and is also the publisher of the successful Focus magazine.
“I always wanted to be a creative and the school system was not ( and probably isn’t ) really geared towards creatives,” he said.
“There is always a way,” he advises. “You might just need to take a longer route.”