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Topping HSC engineering at a boys' school got Scarlett a scholarship

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After making headlines as the girl who topped HSC engineering at a boys' school, Scarlett Pye was trying to figure out how she would juggle university with training for the Olympics and possibly a part-time job.

Then she got a phone call.

"I was at training but my mum answered it," said Scarlett, 17, who did one of her HSC subjects at the neighbouring Randwick Boys' High because her school, Randwick Girls' High, didn't offer it.

"When I got home, she said 'you have a possible scholarship, Scarlett'."

Arup, a design and engineering firm involved in developing the Sydney Opera House, was offering to pay for Scarlett's university degree and give her mentoring and work experience along the way.

The firm's Australasian Transport and Resources Leader Ben Schnitzerling said the scholarship is a first for the company.


"We saw the article about Scarlett and I thought, this is the kind of person we aspire to have here," Mr Schnitzerling said.

"Most people see that a subject isn't available and give up. This is someone who said 'how do I solve that' and then found the creative solution of saying 'I'll go do it through another school'.

"Those are the attributes we really value, resilience and determination. I hope Scarlett will be inspirational for other people."

Scarlett's mum, Firomena Pye, said she has heard that other girls at Scarlett's school are now considering doing subjects that are not offered at their school.

However, paving the way wasn't easy for Scarlett.

"She called me one day and said, 'Mum, they've told me I can't. Can you come down and help me? I've got an interview with the deputy [principal of Randwick Boys' High]'," Mrs Pye said.

"I said, 'When do you want me to come down?' and she said, 'Now!'"

Scarlett said the process took so long that she ended up missing the first few weeks of engineering and had to catch up on her own.

"I had to do three or four interviews before they gave me the contract, and then I'd have to sign a new contract every term," she said.

Scarlett will soon start an engineering degree at Western Sydney University, and the 400m hurdles state champion and national silver medallist is also hoping to qualify for the next Olympics and Commonwealth Games.

"I'll be training, studying and working part-time and I'll keep in touch with Arup and hopefully work there eventually," she said.

Mr Schnitzerling said the firm fully supports Scarlett's sporting goals.

"There'll be the flexibility and freedom to make sure she gets to the Olympics," he said.

"Hopefully we get to the end of the study period, Scarlett wins the gold medal and says 'I want to work at Arup'. Equally, if she says she wants to work somewhere else, we would support that.

"Engineering is a male-dominated industry and we're looking at how we can start to shift that, so we're passionate about having young people like Scarlett coming through."