When Jesinta Franklin was in year 10, she and her mum met with the school career counselor to work out what she wanted to do.
Jesinta listed a few possibilities – social worker, teacher, paramedic, actress – but her mum, Valerie Campbell-Hogg, told her to pinpoint her passion: what did she really want to do for the rest of her life?
When Jesinta said “volunteer”, Valerie didn’t miss a beat: what occupation would she love and would also make her enough money to do philanthropic work? Jesinta’s answer was “actress”.
“Mum was like, ‘Okay, you can be an actress – you can make millions of dollars and only work three months of the year and you can be a volunteer the rest of the time’,” recalls the 25-year-old model and TV presenter.
The guidance counselor burst out laughing, but Jesinta’s mum was serious. Valerie has always taught her two daughters to dream big – to be led by what they love and to never, ever have a plan B.
Valerie wanted that same ethos of self-belief to be a central part of her children’s education so, in 1997, she started her own primary school on the Gold Coast – with Jesinta in the first prep class. Twenty years on, Silkwood School is about to open its high school.
“Our vision was really about empowering young people to see their potential, realise it and make a difference in the world,” says Valerie, 51, the School Facilitator.
That meant classes on life values and creative teaching methods that engaged the students. At Silkwood, learning is centred around the students’ interests, especially in the senior years, and all 530 kids take part in “passion projects”, even in prep.
Jesinta still remembers fun, fascinating lessons on geometry, bread-making and Norse mythology. “I feel like I left the school being quite worldly – really knowledgeable about history and culture and religion,” she says. “I had a greater understanding of humankind really.”
When she and younger sister Aleysha went to Silkwood, there was no high school, so they had to leave at 12. The girls skipped a grade, but conventional schooling was a big adjustment, and both were targeted by bullies.
Still, Jesinta went on to excel in sport, drama and public speaking, and was voted school captain of Aquinas College. According to Valerie, she was a born leader.
“Everyone who met her would say the same thing: ‘This girl is going to be something’,” she recalls.“There was a strength there – and also a loneliness … It was almost like she was in a hurry to get through childhood. There was no time for being a teenager.”
For Jesinta, the tricky teen years never happened. “I wasn’t into boys, I wasn’t a cool kid so I was never invited to parties, I didn’t drink,” she says. “I didn’t kiss a boy until I was 17. I remember Mum would have to ban us from doing homework on the weekends. And to this day I’m still kind of like that – I love to go out and have a drink and a dance, but I’ve never been into clubbing or drugs. It’s just who I am.”
Read more about Jesinta Franklin in the July edition of The Australian Women’s Weekly, in newsagents and supermarkets now, and subscribe to the magazine by visiting Magshop.