Scholarships helping rural students complete further education
CAROLYN EXTON, The Weekly Times
WHEN you have grown up in a country town, it takes guts to leave your home to follow your dreams in the big city.
It also takes financial support. There are tuition fees, books, rent, bills, public transport and accommodation to consider — country students can be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to tertiary education.
From Balranald, on the NSW border, it took a 75-minute bus ride for Ruby Lay, 18, to go to high school every morning. But, today, thanks to a scholarship from the Country Education Foundation, Ruby lives a 10-minute train ride away from her university in Hawthorn.
The oldest of five children, she knows only too well the difficulties faced by people in rural and regional Australia. “I know how hard everybody who lives there has to work,” she said.
Growing up during a drought, depression was a major issue. As a 12-year-old, she said “it took me a little while to grasp the concept of mental illness”. But when she discovered the healing power of a conversation with her school counsellor, she realised she wanted “to bring that kind of relief to people”.
Today, Ruby is a step closer to her dream of working with children as an educational and development psychologist. Accepted into Swinburne University, she is doing a three-year bachelor of psychology course.
But that first step was hard.
“Getting started was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done,” Ruby said. “You leave every secure thing.”
With living expenses of up to $30,000 a year, leaving home to study in the city can be an impossible dream. Scholarships, such as those offered by the CEF, are the key to unlocking the potential of these young people.
According to the CEF’s Sandra Sharpham, academic success is not essential to getting a scholarship. Instead, it looked for “enthusiastic, young country kids who want to go out there and better themselves”, Ms Sharpham said.
Everyone deserves to follow their dreams, no matter what those dreams are.
Ruby was following her dream when she received the scholarship. “I was lucky enough to receive $1400,” she said. The money was immediately put toward an $800 myki card.
“That was my No.1 priority,” she said. “The rest of the money went towards my textbooks and to purchase an iPad for uni.”
While fundraising and donations provide the bulk of CEF’s scholarships, partners have come on board.
For Swinburne University, a partnership with the Country Education Fundmeans it now offers extra financial assistance for any student already receiving support from the CEF. For Ruby, this has meant an unexpected windfall.
“For the past three months I’ve had almost no financial stress,” she said. With an opportunity to spend a semester studying in London next year, the CEF is helping Ruby take her dreams even further than she imagined.