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School leavers' message goes viral as international cameraman shares story of success and failure

A cameraman wears a helmet and Press vest on a runway
Cameron Stewart has travelled the world reporting on major news events.

Supplied: Cameron Stewart

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A former Toowoomba school student's reflections on his own low grades and the pressures on school leavers and career choices has gone viral on social media.

Cameron Stewart lives in London and runs his own news production company traveling across Europe and the Middle East reporting on world events.

Ten years ago as a graduating year 12 student in the regional city of Toowoomba he was in a vastly different place physically, but also mentally.

"I felt like a failure," he admitted.

Struggling in what he found to be a one-size-fits-all school system his final grades reflected that "failure".

"I had one of the worst OP (Overall Position — the Queensland statewide rank) scores you can possible get," he said.

This week he decided to post what he called "an encouraging message" on Facebook to school leavers who may have received a similar "bad number" result and may find hope in his story.

The post has taken on a life of its own with thousands of shares across the country.

Personal story strikes a chord

Mr Stewart said the reaction to his heartfelt Facebook post was overwhelming.

"Many people have commented on their own stories of not understanding school work or not learning in a way that suited how their brain process thinks," he said.

"Many of them have gone on to have very successful careers in all sorts of paths.

"It's also been very touching to see mums and dads tagging their sons and daughters, letting them know that it's okay whatever happens."

He said that if he had to chance to offer his 'schoolie self' some advice, it would be simple.

"Once I left school and got that stupid number out of my head and not let it haunt me, label me or dictate who I was, I was able to choose the path for my own life," he said.

"Just do the best you can. At the end of the day doing your best in school and working hard is important.

"But your OP score — and the marks you get — won't define who you are and what you become."

From the garden city to the world

Mr Stewart said he always had a keen interest in world affairs, reading the newspaper every morning at the kitchen table.

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"I really wanted to travel the world as a pilot and I even I completed the first steps, receiving my light aircraft licence at the Darling Downs Aero Club," he said.

"But it became very expensive."

That is when he says he "stumbled" into a media career.

"It soon became apparent that if I worked hard, one day I could travel the world doing something I loved," he said.

His passion took him from Toowoomba to London, and he still remembers the first time he felt he had found his place in the world.

"I was very fortunate in being able to go overseas within my first few weeks in London," he said.

"I was reporting from the Calais 'Jungle' in northern France, and I had just witnessed some clashes between refugees and police. I even copped some pepper spray to the face for the first time!

"It was such a surreal moment."

Work hard, and keep learning

A cameraman stands next to a life-sized Oscar statue on the red carpet
From Toowoomba to the red carpet.

Supplied: Cameron Stewart

Mr Stewart said he would love the opportunity to return to his Toowoomba school and share his story to students who may be worrying about their own future.

In the meantime, he encourages students to work hard and not give up on their dreams.

"There are some people who took my post and championing it as reason that children should never go to school — which of course I'm not saying at all!" he said.

"Sixteen or 17 is so young! Enjoy life, travel, go do some work experience in lots of different sectors that interest you!"

He said the experience of having a viral social media post was enlightening.

"I'm usually on the other side of the news," he said.

"And I've had more Facebook friend requests than I can handle."

He said that while he would not be adding any more Facebook friends for a while, he was happy to share his overseas adventures and photos on his Instagram feed.