At only five years old, Griffith Country Education Foundation is making its mark with the youth in its community. It has awarded a total of $75,000 to 78 students since being established in 2012 by a Griffith City Council working party.
One of the founding committee members, Jane McGrath, knows what it’s like to put kids through university and the strains it can have on the student living away from home for the first time, and the household they come from.
“It’s important to me because I know what it was like when my three (children received help), it was really beneficial for them,” Jane said.
Jane’s oldest children received help from the Freemasons. Griffith CEF helped Jane’s third child.
For Jane, CEF’s value is in staying connected with recipients and letting them know Griffith CEF “has their back”.
She works hard to maintain contact with Griffith CEF’s recipients, both present and past.
“I text the kids quite often to see how they are going and they will reply. They often shoot me a random email to just tell me what they are up to,” Jane said.
“They touch base and let me know what they are doing or I contact them and just catch up.”
She said some of the recipients embrace the mentorship and advice Griffith CEF can offer them.
“I think it’s really important for these kids to have a connection. They might just send me a text and ask ‘what do you think I should do about this?’ and it will be something to do with uni. I tell them to talk to their student advisors or your RA, stuff like that. They just don’t want their parents to be worried,” Jane explains.
Through these connections Griffith CEF has welcomed new members into their committee fold – a CEF alumnus now working back in the town attends meetings when she can and helps organise fundraising events; while a grandmother saw how CEF helped her grand-daughter and decided to join the committee.
“[CEF is so valuable] at taking the pressure off the students. If it means we can help them pay their rent for half a term, that saves them,” Jane said.
“It also saves them having to commit to a lot of work while they are studying. A lot of them are in self-catered accommodation, they have got to do everything themselves as it is, they have to have a job, and have to study – it’s just really hard. It’s wonderful to be able to help them.”
Jane said she chooses to distance herself from the scholarship awarding process, leaving the decisions to other members of the committee.
“I stay well away from that because I get a little bit emotional – I know it sounds stupid,” Jane laughed.
“Deciding who to give the money to when you’ve only got X-number of dollars is the hardest thing.”
“Everybody has a valid reason, it costs a lot of money to be educated.”