At the age of just 14, Madisyn Sarkis has already achieved more than some people have well into their adult career. She’s met with two education ministers to discuss how to improve rural schools, represented her town in a major public speaking competition, won long distance athletics titles and swapped notes with celebrity maths teacher Eddie Woo.
Her long list of accomplishments saw her named Griffith Young Citizen of the Year for 2023 at the town’s Australia Day awards.
Region caught up with the Murrumbidgee Regional High student to find out more about what she’s trying to achieve and her plans for the future.
Why do you think you were named Griffith Young Citizen of the Year?
I think for the work I’ve done for the DOVES program, youth advisory group (YAG) for Griffith, my athletics and just helping people.
What is DOVES?
It stands for the Department of Student Voices in Education and Schools; it’s a two-year program where I’m on a council with people from all over NSW where you try to change things that need changing in the education system. We have met the previous education minister Sarah Mitchell and the current minister, Prue Carr.
What are you trying to change?
We are not as fortunate with our resources and opportunities out here compared to the cities. They get a lot more than we do.
I’m also concerned about mental health support in schools; we don’t have enough counsellors. A lot of people don’t know you can go and see someone without parental consent when you’re above the age of 14.
How did you meet Eddie Woo?
We go to Sydney twice a year for DOVES and I ran into Eddie at our hotel while we were having lunch. We told him who we were and what we were doing to change the education system. He was impressed.
In addition to being on DOVES, you’re also on something called YAG. What is that?
It’s a Youth Advisory Group for Griffith. We create activities for youth to engage in; we’ve organised roller skating events, a music festival and activities at the pool. It’s also a place where young people can go to talk.
What do you specialise in for athletics?
I’m a long-distance runner. In two weeks I’m competing in Wollongong in the 1500-metre run, 1500-metre walk, 800-metre run and long jump.
What’s the furthest you can run?
I can run at least five km without stopping, probably more.
What have you achieved in the field of public speaking?
I once did a speech on the theme ‘Always was, always will be’ for an inter-school NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week competition with my classmate Danika Broome. We won and progressed to the next round; I was supposed to speak at the Sydney Opera House but the event was cancelled due to COVID.
Who are your role models?
My family – my dad Phillip and mum Melyssa.
Having met and lobbied politicians, do you think you have a future career in politics?
I was thinking about it, but it’s probably too full-on for me.
What’s your dream job?
I don’t know yet, I just want to do something that involves helping people.