St Mary's College captains Stephanie Eveleigh and Angus Taylor were recognised for their "effective leadership, integrity and character" when they were presented with the prestigious honour prize at the Year 12 graduation mass and awards night on Thursday.
Established more than 100 years ago and presented by the ex-students association, the honour prize is one of the oldest in the history of the college, established by the Sisters of Mercy in 1879.
The McAuley prize for academic excellence, based on the school's assessment program, was shared by Kira Goodhew and Stefanie Woods, who placed first or second in five or more subjects.
The Katrina Ewing Memorial prize for "a student who has been an example of compassion, care and understanding to junior students throughout their high school years" was presented to Lucy Wilkinson by Katrina's parents Bob and Kerry Ewing. A former St Mary's College Captain, Katrina died tragically in a car accident in 2000.
Zoe Palmer received the ADIG all-rounder award for "outstanding service and contribution to the college in the wider community and extra-curricula activities", with Carter Cameron named senior of the year, in recognition of his leadership qualities and scholastic achievements.
Bella Gallagher was presented with the ADF Long Tan Award - a tribute to the Long Tan veterans - for leadership, determination, mateship, team work, tenacity and compassion, while the Kevin Anderson MP prize for consistent effort went to Lucy Ellis.
The O'Driscoll Award, presented by Sr Christine Belling RSM, to Bayley Williams, honours Mother Mary Bidelia O'Driscoll, the founder of the Gunnedah congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, and recognises a student who reflects the Mercy way of life, and is recognised as a leader by their peers.
After the formal HSC examinations, all students who receive a Band 6 result in any subject will be listed in the 2019 NSW HSC honours. These students will be recognised at an assembly early next year, when the dux of St Mary's College will also be awarded, based on the student who receives the highest ATAR this year.
The Year 12 awards presentation was held at in St Joseph's Catholic Church after the graduation mass celebrated by parish priest Father John McHugh.
In his annual address, principal Max Quirk described the Year 12 students as 'a class with inspiring leadership, great academic ability and sporting achievements but also vulnerability and fragility - all elements that make up the human condition'.
Mrs Quirk urged the students to go out into the world knowing that each has something special to offer: "Let's look for it in each other and celebrate the differences."
Mr Quirk expressed appreciation to Year 12 supervisor Jen Long for the tremendous care she had shown to the students over the past six years and to the parents and guardians for entrusting the staff at St Mary's with the care and education of their children.
He also thanked the students for their co-operation and responsible attitude during their final days at St Mary's, when they enjoyed some fun but also organised and ran Mercy Day activities, raising funds for the Sisters of Mercy charity Mercy Works.
"Our thoughts and prayers go with you as you embark on the next important step of your life's journey," he said.
Fr John McHugh encouraged the students "to reflect on the remarkable achievements that have brought them to this place and time."
"I am sure a sense of gratitude would be strong in the mix of your emotions," he said.
"You have matured into a wonderful group of young adults, who are sincere in your endeavours, tolerant of others, always striving for harmony, still discerning, growing in wisdom and aware that gratitude to parents, guardians and teachers is so important tonight.
"When we have a sense of gratitude we have the ability to be keenly aware of the good things that happen to us and never take them for granted," he said.
"Gratitude is a virtue that Jesus himself encouraged at all times. And to be aware of giving gratitude, in a truly Christian sense, is a sign of your faith, a sign of the respect you have for your parents, your guardians and teachers and a sign of the bond of friendship you have for each other.
"Each of you, the graduation class of St Mary's Collage Gunnedah 2019, has been blessed with unique and precious gifts. You have been given a tremendous opportunity because of the education you have received at St Mary's College - this is a lifelong gift that has formed you well for the future.
"Be happy and enjoy your life, grow in wisdom, grow in goodness, grow in kindness, grow in compassion, and grow deeply in the realisation that you are appreciated, respected, and admired by all of us who gather with you tonight," Fr John said.
"St Mary's has prepared you well - you have been taught by many inspirational and dedicated teachers and you have made enduring friendships. Tonight is unique because you will never gather like this again. And there is sadness in that thought but there is a greater joy that awaits you - that of a full and happy life and all that it has to offer."
The 53 students were presented with their graduation certificates and final school reports, along with a farewell gift from Year 12 supervisor Jen Long and a pair of rosary beads honouring the patron of St Mary's College.
Academic awards for first place in each subject
Kathleen and William Burke Memorial award for Studies of Religion 2: Lucy Wilkinson. Sisters of Mercy award for Studies of Religion 1: Kira Goodhew. Sisters of Mercy award for Catholic Studies: Zara Whelan.
Lions Club of Gunnedah award for Extension 2 English, presented by Jennifer Bower: Dylan Power. Extension English 1 and Advanced English: Bella Gallagher. Standard English: Matthew Etheridge.
Sister Casimir Memorial award for Mathematics and Extension 1 Mathematics, donated by Rodney Paul: Kira Goodhew. Standard 2 Mathematics, donated by Gunnedah Shire Council, presented by Mayor Jamie Chaffey: Lucy Ellis. Standard 1 Mathematics: Emma Shanley.
Rotary Club of Gunnedah award for chemistry, presented by Rod Browne: Kira Goodhew. Physics: Matthew Etheridge. Biology: Stefanie Eveleigh. Senior Science: Grace Jaeger. VET Primary Industries: Dylan Jones.
Northern Inland Credit Union award for Business Studies, presented by Jen Elphick: Angus Taylor. Ancient History: Carter Cameron. Legal Studies: Rylee Baker. Work Studies: Juanita Swan.
GSBC award for Personal Development/Health/Physical Education: Stefanie Woods. Community and Family Studies: Lucy Ellis. Sport, Lifestyle and Recreation: Ryan Wheatland.
The inaugural George Paul awards for Technology, Applied Science and Creatives Arts were presented by Rod Browne in memory of the long-serving Rotarian. Industrial Technology Wood: Jayden Thomas. Music 1: Carter Cameron. Visual Arts: Bayley Williams. Food Technology: Madeline Mainey.
Spirit of the Olympics award presented to a student who embodies the "spirit of the games" went to Stephanie Eveleigh who has represented at the Combined Catholic Colleges titles since Year 7, mentored younger students and also coached children outside school hours.
The athletics award went to Jasper Thomas in recognition of outstanding effort at diocesan and CCC levels. He also set records in the 17 and over 200m (24 seconds) and 100m (11.31 seconds)