Terry Witchard read about Country Education Foundation in 2012 and said he was instantly hooked on the unique model of local foundations supporting local areas.
I’d been involved in youth programs previously but this was something that really resonated with me and something I knew the Macleay Valley really needed.
This passionate CEF volunteer and founder of the local CEF in Macleay Valley knows first-hand that education is vital when it comes to unlocking opportunity for regional kids.
“I have spent my whole life in this area and went to Kempsey High School. In my time not a lot of people went on to further education. I always wanted to go to uni but I knew mum and dad couldn’t afford it so when I was 17 I walked out of school and got a job as a bowser attendant at the local servo.”
Terry went on to work his way up to management with ANZ Banking Group and even ran his own mixed business for five years. “When I decided that returning to the workforce would give me more freedom than running my own business I kept getting knock backs for jobs I knew I could do. I asked one interviewer why and he said it was because I didn’t have my HSC – the most basic formal qualification in a lot of people’s eyes.”
So Terry took matters into his own hands and enrolled in a TAFE course at the age of 40 to get his HSC. He then went on to university and earned a teaching degree.
“I returned to my original job as a servo attendant and worked the 11pm to 7am shift so that I could go to TAFE and uni through the day.”
Terry went on to become coordinator of tertiary preparation at North Coast TAFE and highly involved in youth programs in the area. He established a local CEF in the Macleay Valley in 2013 and is an inspirational volunteer CEF are lucky to count as one of our family.
I thought about my life and what a difference this kind of help would have made to me. I saw kids in our region who I knew had the potential to get qualifications if only someone believed in them and could give them a kick start.
“These days in regional areas there aren’t opportunities for unskilled employment for kids fresh out of school or kids who don’t have their HSC. But there are jobs available for people with qualifications. The work is there, if they can just get the certificates and degrees they need.”
Terry said one of Macleay Valley’s first grant recipients has just returned to the area as a nurse. “She’s working as an AIN while she finishes her nursing degree and once she has her full qualifications she will be working in a skilled profession, making good money and contributing to her community. Our investment in these kids pays dividends for the whole community – CEF recipients are living proof of this.”
To find out more about the CEF local foundation model click here.