Marcus, 21, Sydney

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“While many can be grateful for what they have now, I look back and see how blessed I was through my childhood and adolescence. My grandfather, or nonno, as my Italian heritage would denote, was the man I idolised above all others. He loved and adored his family and taught me that no matter what you can achieve on a personal level, no amount of wealth of personal goals are more important than taking care of the family.

In 2003, nonno suffered a major stroke and lost his ability to speak and paralysed his right side. Doctors gave him little to no chance of walking. But the stubborn b**tard that he was, nonno didn’t like people telling him he can’t do things. He worked hard through months of rehabilitation until he could walk with a cane. A small step but it really emphasised the man’s incredible character. Even though he had lost his ability to speak, it never stopped nonno from straining his voice trying to pronounce our names and sing happy birthday to each of us. He never stopped pushing his limits to engage with his family.

In a selective schools test in 2005, the question was “Write about someone you admire.”. I wrote about you nonno. You always gave me strength and support in all my endeavours, soccer, school and family, and I looked up to you. Nonno, your guidance has been a huge part of making me the man I am today. You taught me that family comes first and you led by example. I cannot begin to express the love and gratitude that I have for you.”

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