When Harrison Crisp went mountain biking in November 2019, he had no idea how an ordinary day out with his friends would change his life.
A serious accident caused a fractured spinal vertebrae which damaged his spinal cord, and led to the year 9 student becoming a complete quadriplegic.
Harrison spent the next 12 months undergoing treatment and rehabilitation in a Sydney hospital, 400 kilometres from his home in Orange.
There, he learnt how to use assistive technologies, including an arm-controlled wheelchair.
Despite recommendations to scale back his studies, Harrison threw himself into his schoolwork, which included a number of accelerated and advanced courses.
"I sort of realised this was one pathway forward that I could still succeed at, despite my disability," he said.
"It served as a place where I could direct all of my energy into."
Harrison went on to achieve top results in the Higher School Certificate (HSC), and was named dux of Orange's Kinross Wolaroi School in 2022.
"I just needed to do something, I didn't want to wait around,.
"I saw academics as an opportunity for me to continue my studies, get a job and lead a fulfilling life."
Now studying a double degree in Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Harrison has no plans to relax.
"I saw a quantum computing lecture the other day … that's a really exciting industry so I think that could maybe be a career for me, in the quantum computing world."
An inspiration to his peers
In a nod to Harrison's hard work, his maths teacher Kathryn Northam nominated him for the state's Brother John Taylor Memorial Prize, which recognises students who overcame incredible personal adversity to achieve academic excellence in their HSC.
Ms Northam said Harrison was a very deserving recipient of the award.
"To come from the accident and then having the drive he did, it was quite amazing," she said.
"He overcame lots of obstacles.
"He would come in on the laptop and he would do the classes online … he was doing so much work behind the scenes."
Ms Northam said Harrison had set a great example for his peers.
"He just inspires the students, [shows them] there's no obstacle that can get in your way if you're so determined to succeed.
"He really just is determined to enjoy and take every opportunity given to him."
'Just go for it'
Harrison credits his success in the HSC to the people who supported him, including his family and Ms Northam.
"I think it really does come back to my maths teacher … she made me realise that doing well at school was something that I still could do."
He said other young people who are battling challenging circumstances as they complete their HSC should "just go for it".
"There are so many people that are there to help you … It's hard work but it's worthwhile in the long run."