Former local pupil Sarah Washford has urged the John Pirie Secondary School students to "follow your dreams".
Ms Washford offered the encouragement while speaking at the school's presentation night at the Keith Michell Theatre.
She said she had found her "passion" in her career while working with big apes at Monarto Safari Park.
The school leavers should "try something" as a career otherwise how did they know what suited them.
"Never give up - follow your dreams. Nothing is out of reach," she said.
Ms Washford said she had graduated from Year 12 in 2002 then took a diploma in animal technology at Gilles Plains TAFE.
She said her placements at Adelaide Zoo and Monarto had "opened my eyes".
"It took three years before I had a permanent full-time position," she said.
During the night's presentations, last year's Dux, Renee Nickoloudi, was praised for scoring a tertiary ranking of 89.15.
The Rowan Ramsey Award was presented by federal Grey MP Rowan Ramsey to chairwoman of the Governing Council Sandra Stringer.
Ms Stringer has been a council member for 13 years and chairwoman for a decade. She said she had seen "extraordinary changes" at the school and the award was a great honour.
"Principal Roger Nottage and his staff have continued to drive positive changes," she said.
"To the Year 12s and families, I wish you all the best."
The Governing Council Award went to Jenny Sherry who started working in reception at the school in 1974 then moved to the library where she continued until retiring in 2015, achieving a total of 41 years in education.
She still volunteers in the library for one day a week.