Bethany Hiatt, The West Australian
A Perth Modern School dux who devoted hundreds of hours to after school study in the hope of pursuing a career in medicine and an aspiring entrepreneur has landed the state’s most prestigious high school award.
Just 72 hours after discovering she had been one of 16 WA students to attain the perfect score, Perth Modern dux Jessica Doan stood alongside WA Governor Chris Dawson and his predecessor Kim Beazley at Government House to be presented with the 2022 Beazley Medal: WACE.
Jessica achieved the highest exam marks across five ATAR courses in Year 12, receiving A grades across every one of her courses during her final two years of high school and the state’s top award for chemistry. Jessica also achieved the Subject Exhibition for Japanese: Second language when she was in Year 11.
It’s a level of dedication that appears to run in the Doan family, with both of Jessica’s older siblings having achieved an ATAR score above 99.
She credits her level of organisation, consistent study routine and the support of her family and teachers as the key to her success.
But the biggest driver was her desire to study medicine, a long-standing dream she said she hoped would allow her to help others.
‘I studied several hours every day after school and about four hours a day on the weekends, doing practice exams and things,’ she said.
‘My main motivation was just to try and do the very best that I can and achieve as high as possible, but the subjects I was studying were enjoyable, too, so that helped motivate me to keep going.’
She had always been interested in medicine and wanting to help people.
‘Having my siblings there, who have been through this before, they helped me out if I had a bit of trouble or if I felt stressed or overwhelmed,’ she said.
‘It’s important to study consistently and to take time for yourself, take breaks and also try not to compare yourself to others and just focus on yourself and try to do the best that you can.’
Beazley Medal winner Jessica Doan: Granddaughter of Vietnamese refugees awarded WA’s top high school prize
Bethany Hiatt, The West Australian
After fleeing war-torn Vietnam by boat, Huu Tri and Thi Manh never dreamt there would come a day more than 40 years later when they would see their granddaughter awarded the State’s top high school prize for academic achievement.
Perth Modern School graduate Jessica Doan was presented with the Beazley Medal on Wednesday for blitzing her Year 12 exams, attaining the highest marks across five subjects.
She also won a Subject Exhibition for topping the State in chemistry.
Watching on in quiet pride as Jessica received her award from WA Governor Chris Dawson were her grandfather, Huu Tri, and grandmother, Thi Manh.
They did not speak a word of English when they first arrived as refugees 41 years ago with Jessica’s mum, Minh Doan, who was just seven at the time.
The couple, who went on to run a Noranda deli for many years, said they were ‘very happy’ and ‘very proud’ of Jessica’s achievement because it was beyond what they could have imagined when they first came to Australia to start a new life.
Jessica’s father, electrical engineer Kanh Doan, also fled Vietnam by boat with his parents when he was 12, arriving in Australia after spending two months in a refugee camp in Malaysia.
Her family believe Jessica is the first student from the Vietnamese community to win the coveted Beazley Medal, though the School Curriculum and Standards Authority said it was unable to confirm that.
‘We were all boat people,’ Mrs Doan said. ‘We just had to work really hard. Mum and Dad came with a wedding band, and that was it.
‘We just love that representation for the Vietnamese people, that hard work does pay off.’
Mrs Doan said even though they rarely talk about their past with their kids, their humble background had made the whole family determined to work hard to contribute to society and show gratitude for the opportunities they were given.
Return trips to Vietnam and visits to orphanages to ‘give back’ had also played a role in her daughter’s decision to study to become a doctor.
As dux of Perth Modern, which takes only the State’s highest achievers, Jessica was always in with a good chance to sweep up the top prize.
But the Beazley Medal is calculated only on exam results, while the dux prize was based on work done throughout the year, so her family was determined not to weigh her down with expectations.
‘She never compared herself to other students, she just ran her own race,’ Mrs Doan said.
Jessica’s father was the first to spot his daughter was gifted in maths from an early age as she tried to copy everything her two older siblings did.
‘Most children when they do maths they count on their fingers, but I noticed that she didn’t — that she did it all mentally,’ he said.
‘She was about three.’
This year’s Beazley Medal winner Thi Manh, Jessica Doan, and Huu Tri at Government House in Perth. Credit: Ross Swanborough/The West Australian