A couple of months into her school graduate chapter, Stella Cozamanis still has reasons to celebrate the end of a “quite stressful” Year 12.

At an official ceremony which took place at Adelaide’s Government House in February, she was one of the 40 recipients of the Governor’s Commendation Excellence Award.

“I didn’t quite expect it, to be honest,” Cozamanis tells Neos Kosmos.

“There are many other kids at my school who have done remarkable things and have been recognised with other awards.”

Awarded students are nominated by their respective schools. The recognition is determined by a panel comprising the Governor Frances Adamson AC, and a team of school, education and business representatives.

Assessment is based on excellence in year 12 SACE subjects and student achievement inside and outside the school community.

For Cozamanis, the recognition came in acknowledgement of both her artistic output and community spirit.

“Stella is a gifted artist. She has worked with staff to develop their professional skills in video editing. As a boarder at her school, Stella took on the role of Boarding House Photographer and has created dozens of films, photo boards, news articles, and related media,” the award announcement reads.

Cozamanis, a Port Lincoln local took up photography as a hobby when she joined her school in Adelaide, Immanuel College as a boarder in Year 9 and starting putting together video and photo tributes of senior classes.

“I sort of invented a role for myself in the boarding house, being known as the boarding house photographer.

“So, I did that every year for the past four years. And it was very emotional having to put together my own Year 12 boarding graduation video, because I was so close to that group.”

In an announcement congratulating their graduate, school representatives said the Governor of South Australia Commendation Excellence Award was “an incredibly well-deserved achievement” for Stella Cozamanis.

“Stella, a Boarder and gifted artist of Aboriginal and Greek heritage, displays great integrity and has been a change-maker at Immanuel with her leadership, mentorship, and willingness to support school events and community members.”

Cozamanis‘ Indigenous and Greek heritage hails from her paternal grandparents, while her mother’s side combines Greek and British bloodlines.

Stella Cozamanis holding the Governor’s Commendation Excellence Award certificate, alongside SA Premier Peter Malinauskas. Photo: Supplied

“My grandmother has Aboriginal bloodlines from the Ngarrindjeri language group located in the Coorong and lower Murray River and my grandfather’s parents migrated to Australia from the island of Ikaria,” she explains.

Cozamanis’ last trip to the Greek island was for her grandfather’s 80th and plans to revisit next year also, for her father’s 50th birthday celebration.

She says a sense of family has been instilled in her from a young age, primarily through her father who inspired her to continue researching their family history of both sides of the globe.

She wasn’t raised with exclusive practices of one of the two cultures though, she adds.

“I suppose I learned that through both sides of my Aboriginal and Greek heritage. That it doesn’t matter where you come from. Family is family. Blood is blood.”

“That sense of connection within families I would say I find similar in both cultures.”

She sees the school community she belonged in for the last years of her pre-adult life in the same spirit.

“The whole Year 12 was quite stressful for me. But the thing I took away was more the support you’re surrounded by, from peers and teachers who absolutely dedicate themselves to Year 12.

“I couldn’t have done what I did without their support. It doesn’t matter where you come from, when you find a real sense of community it’s like family.”