Mixed emotions swelled through the halls of Dubbo College Senior Campus on Thursday as 232 Year 12 students donned their academic gowns and accepted their portfolios.
A record number of Aboriginal students graduated in the cohort with 73 completing their final year of school.
Ryan Medley, who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2017, addressed the students at the assembly.
"After school I had great opportunities in my chosen sport and I was enrolled in a degree course, accommodation organised," he said.
"I kept making excuses for failing, ultimately coming back to Dubbo, realising I had wasted opportunities by not respecting myself, and not respecting alcohol and drugs. With the help of a good support network my life changed. I stopped making excuses and started having a positive impact on other people."
Mr Medley said when he had his accident he knew he had to accept it rather than mope about the past.
"By the time I was flown to Sydney my lungs had collapsed and I was placed in a coma on a ventilator. After a month I had to learn to breathe again and I started marking the milestones in my recovery," he said.
"During the aftermath of my accident, I learned what stress is - never take your health, loved ones, for granted, and don't stress about what doesn't matter."
Principal Marisha Blanco told the students real learning was fostered by failures and setbacks.
"The fear of failure can be debilitating," Ms Blanco said.
"Yet failing is an essential component of learning, growing and experiencing success. Embrace these as opportunities, try new things and triumph. What impedes you can empower you."
Awards were presented to Kaz Miller, Tatum Roberts, Isabelle Lordan, Grace Gower, Jasmine Ward, David Woods, Jordan Davis, Quincy Ross, Mathew Dicker and Jaimee Nixon. Academic excellence medals went to Sarah Boon, Kaz Miller, Claudia Morrison, Jaimee Nixon, Jonas Palin, Archer Purcell, Tataum Roberts and Maxwelll Stewart.
The students will undertake their Higher School Certificate before they're done with school forever.