Chris Mercer has seen the world thanks to help from the Country Education Foundation of Australia (CEF). The Cooma boy had dreams of studying theatre, and after years of building a career in Australia and overseas, is now the Head of Production at Sydney Theatre Company.

Chris says the CEF grant made him believe in himself and his dreams, no matter how unrealistic they felt as a young man leaving home for the first time.

“The grant gave me determination and confidence. I dreamt of going to drama school and after graduating, working in London for the Royal Court and National Theatre.

“It felt like a fantasy and very unrealistic but the grant gave me confidence, and also a sense of responsibility that I had to work hard and give myself the very best chance to succeed.”

Chris says the feeling of achievement never feels old, and he has never forgotten how the Monaro Education Foundation helped him during his first year at the University of Wollongong.

“It was a huge help, it covered all my books for the first year.”

“There have been a couple of moments in my career when I have sat in a theatre in New York, London or at the Sydney Theatre Company and thought I can’t believe this actually happened. I am grateful to the Foundation for providing its support.”

Having worked from the bottom up, Chris said he has taken every opportunity to come his way, but has never left his roots behind.

“I often think of home and have several friends who live in Cooma.”

“Sydney is home for now. Sydney Theatre Company is the 10th largest theatre company in the world and a pleasure to work for. In the future I would like to return (to the country). I hope to teach technical production at a regional university.

“I miss the people, the community spirit, the fresh air and the quiet of the country.”

While it has been more than 10 years since Chris was granted the $500 gift of confidence and belief, he sees CEF’s work as a valuable opportunity for any country kid looking to dream big.

“The funds ease the pressure. It’s a huge expense for regional students to leave home and study. Receiving a grant gives you confidence knowing someone else believes that you can achieve your goals.

“If you are passionate and it’s your dream, commit 100 per cent to achieving it. The talented and the elite in their fields are the ones that have had the passion and determination to succeed.”

Chris hopes to contribute at a CEF committee level at some stage in the future.