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‘The Comedian, the Techie and the Thrill-Seeker inspire Newtown High School students’

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Three successful Tasmanian entrepreneurs came together today to educate and inspire a cohort of more than 160 teenage boys, sending the strong message that armed with the foundation of a good public education, they too can transform their passions into a career.

Former public school students and now Ambassadors of Public Education, Simon French, James Riggall and John Xintavelonis, will visit Year 8 boys at New Town High School today as part of the school’s My Education program— a coordinated whole-school approach to career and life planning.

Founder and Managing Director of adventure tourism venture, Maydena Adventure Company and owner of Maydena Bike Park, Simon French, turned his passion for competitive mountain biking into several internationally successful businesses. In 2018 he realised his dream of opening a world-class mountain bike park—the largest in the southern hemisphere—in his home state of Tasmania.

“I initially trained and worked as an oncology nurse, but mountain biking was always my passion. I loved being outdoors and there came a point when I thought, ‘You know what—I need to figure out how I can do this for the rest of my life’,” Mr French said.

Founder and Company Director of tech company Bitlink, James Riggall, is a global specialist in virtual and augmented reality. A winner of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, James now splits his time between his home state of Tasmania and the US, where he has established a virtual reality lab.

“I was really fortunate to have enthusiastic and relatable teachers who encouraged me to pursue my interests and passions. I was a pretty bookish kid, unlike others in my grade who were super athletic or great musicians. But that’s what I love about public education—the diversity. Everyone has their ‘thing’ and I think ultimately school provides opportunities for everyone to find and develop their interests,” Mr Riggall said.

Hobat-based actor, comedian and production company owner, John Xintavelonis, is one of Australia’s most sought-after musical theatre performers, who found his passion in performance during his high school and college years.

“I was always the chatty kid at the back who never took school too seriously. I loved music and sports but never really knew what I wanted to do when I left school. That all changed when I found the stage at college—and now I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world to do what I love for a living,” Mr Xintavelonis said.

New Town High Assistant Principal, Sally Isles, knows only too well the positive impact sharing these stories can have on young male students.

“It’s so powerful for these students to hear from former public school students, who have sat where they now sit, and aspired to pursue careers in areas they’re passionate about,” Ms Isles said.

“This feeds in seamlessly to the philosophy of the My Education program, which supports students to identify their personal interests, values, strengths and aspirations, and teaches them how to use this knowledge to make decisions about their future learning, work and life opportunities,” she said.

‘The Comedian, the Techie and the Thrill Seeker’ session forms part of a wider program which highlights Ambassadors of Public Education as part of the 150 Years of Public Education celebration this year.