Gunnedah is still home for Ivy Watterson and Megan Isbester. The childhood friends may have left home to go onto university, but the connections and support they have from the Gunnedah community are still alive and well.
“I love driving to Gunnedah and having that feeling of being home. I thought it would get easier every time I left, but after three years, I still miss it. It really does show that I value where I grew up and the opportunities I received in Gunnedah,” Megan said passionately.
Ivy agrees. “Gunnedah is very much home. You don’t realise how great it is until you move away.”
Ivy – a University of New England graduate, and Megan – a third year teaching student at the University of Wollongong have both been supported by CEF Gunnedah during their studies.
Ivy now works as a marketing officer and after learning about CEF Gunnedah recommended Megan pursue a grant. “I started uni the year before Megan, and had been involved with CEF so recommended she definitely got on to it.”
Ivy says the $9000 in grant money she received over her three years at university allowed her to live independently and ‘it supplemented what I was earning while I was working’.
“I was concerned about the cost. I knew that I wanted to go to uni but I didn’t really comprehend how hard it would be to study, work and try to pay for it all.”
I really wanted to be able to do it myself and not ask for my parents’ help, I’m a little bit stubborn like that. I couldn’t just rely on my parents to fund college, especially because it’s something I wanted to do.
It’s a very daunting thing when you start to look at the costs of accommodation, particularly on the coast. Even finding a carpark you must have money. Everything in your lifestyle changes from living in the country.
Megan tells a similar story. “With the grant money and working I haven’t had to rely on my parents much and for me – the independent person I am – I’ve loved that I could do that because of this money I received.”
Starting to think about career opportunities after her graduation next year, Megan says she has ‘felt the impact of CEF’s support every day.’ “You need money to live, you need money to be social and have fun with your friends. The three lots of $3000 from CEF Gunnedah has just helped me so much, I’ve put it all toward my rent. I’m very fortunate.
“It really relieves the financial burden of uni. It just allows you to be able to live. And to feel comfortable, not constantly thinking do I have enough money to get through this week?”
Ivy agrees in full. “It helps you to focus on something other than money. It is always going to be a concern no matter what you are doing, but it really helps you prioritise what’s important, and at the end of the day that’s your degree.”
Both young women demonstrate their strong personalities and determination have led them to successful starts, and that their character will continue to support their ambitions throughout their futures.
And their advice to other school leavers?
“The money is an amazing support, but the whole experience of the application and interview process is really worthwhile. It was motivating to know there are people out there who do want to see you succeed, get out there and have a go.”
It’s heartening to know the Gunnedah community is helping support their future leaders, and that the CEF name is part it.
First published December 2017