A highlight of the scholarships presentation was a panel of five past recipients who shared with us their stories. Shown with emcee and MSN lifetime member Melinda Smith they are (from left to right) Stephen (2016), Josephus (2015 and 2016), Melinda Smith, Vanessa (2015), Belinda (2012 and 2013) and Solomon (2009 and 2010).
Solomon came to Australia as a refugee and was living independently when we met him. The scholarship allowed him to pay for school excursions and feel like the other kids. On graduating from TAFE (having helped produce and star in a TAFE commercial) Solomon went to university and in 2016 completed a degree in media and communications still using the computer his scholarship helped purchase.
After being awarded a scholarship Belinda s attitude to school totally changed. She told us she came last in class, had learning difficulties and wasn’t interested. With the resources of the scholarship and a new confidence Belinda graduated in the top five in each of her classes. “Receiving the scholarship was the best thing that ever happened to me. It really gave me the drive, focus and ability to do well and achieve my dream. It was the main reason I was able to successfully complete the HSC, and this was my greatest achievement.” Belinda has completed several TAFE certificates and now works as a teacher’s aid.
Receiving a scholarship enabled Josephus, also a refugee, to purchase a computer and textbooks and receive tutoring in English. This helped provide the tools that would allow his academic excellence to shine – leading a school team to success in the national 2015 Australian STEM Video Game Challenge. Josephus has just commenced his second year of computer science and engineering studies at The University of Newcastle.
Vanessa was nominated for her award by The Place Charlestown where she attended their homework study program while in grade 12 at Swansea HS. Her scholarship supported her educational costs during her first year at The University of Newcastle while studying Business. Like many students adapting to university there were challenges, but by the second semester Vanessa was doing well and is continuing her studies.
Stephen was the most recent scholarship recipient on the panel. He applied for the scholarship while in grade 12 and working part-time to help support his family. Like Vanessa he was supported and nominated by The Place Charlestown and used the award to support the costs of first year university. He ultimately plans to work with children with special needs. Having successfully completed first year he is now a second-year student.
We are extremely proud of their achievements and delighted to have played a small part in making their success possible. To hear more from Belinda, see her November 2016 NBN interview with past chair Kay Sharp AM.