“Don’t feel bad about taking a break”
Rachel Hertz didn’t just focus on academics to get her average of 94% in matric at Redhill in 2021. She was an integral part of the leadership team, orchestra, and was involved in the school’s musicals, interhouse cultural events, and public speaking trophy team.
And now, with her eight distinctions – of which seven were over 90% and she got 99% for drama –she’s determined to become a doctor, just like her mom, Dr Sheri Fanaroff.
She was placed on the Independent Examinations Board’s (IEB’s) outstanding achievement list due to six subjects being in the top five percent and five subjects in the top one percent in the IEB matrics in South Africa.
“My mom is my greatest inspiration,” Hertz says of the Johannesburg-based general practitioner. “If I can be half as great a doctor as her one day, I’ll be happy.”
The reason why Hertz’s heart is set on becoming a doctor is more a case of inspiration than stipulation.
“I’ve seen the past three years and with COVID-19, my mom’s become a beacon of hope,” says Hertz. “Seeing the incredible work she does, how much she cares, and how hard she works to make her patients’ lives better and to make sure they are healthy, I’m in awe.”
Having studied subjects that she loves, working hard in matric wasn’t so difficult for Hertz because, as she says, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
“I knew I wanted to do something in the health-sciences realm, so I knew I needed to do science, biology, and AP Maths,” she says. “To fill out the rest of my subjects, I chose music and drama, which are things I love and come easily to me.”
She loved being part of the leadership at her school. “I had a great team, so it was amazing to be able to be a part of that.”
In her role, she was in charge of the school’s eight committees. “I oversaw what all of them did and helped with planning and administration. I guided all of the eight committee heads.”
In 2020, students from the arts and culture committee headed by Hertz came together to host a food drive for the Dlala Nje Foundation, an organisation that runs a community centre in the Ponte City Apartments for children living in the inner-city area.
Hertz spearheaded the initiative. “Many of the families there haven’t benefitted from government social programmes and food grants,” she told the Sandton Chronicle. “I was worried about the children whom we have come to know, and decided to launch a food drive to support them at this difficult time.”
Hertz put her heart and soul into the cultural side of Redhill. “It’s a lot of fun to become involved in that, make friends, and be part of school life through all of those cultural events.”
Last year, she bagged distinctions in the Grade A Trinity drama and music exams. “I was in the musical at school, and participated in the public speaking trophy team. I was happy with the 99% I got for drama at the end of this year. What helped me do well was the fact that I was having so much fun in the play and doing those exams, participating in public speaking, and debating.”
COVID-19 increased her appreciation of in-person teaching. “That said, I felt lucky just to be in an environment where the switch to online was so seamlessly incorporated, and where my teachers were so willing to have Zooms and to record lessons for us that we could watch again and again. We adapted because of how well it was handled. I wasn’t affected by it.”
She says finding a balance between working hard and relaxation will be just what the doctor ordered for this year’s matrics. “Hard work comes in moderation because, in order to maintain their work ethic and not become burned out halfway through the year, they have to keep up their relationships with their family, socialise with friends, and sometimes know when they need an early night or when they need to go to a party, take a walk, or relax because it’s a really long year and it’s a lot of hard work. To maintain the work ethic and keep going, they have to take things in moderation and listen to themselves. When they need a break, they should take a break. They shouldn’t feel bad about taking time to make sure they are okay.”