Shannon Payten-McDonald grew up on a small property called ‘Crooked Bridge’ just outside Nimmitabel in the NSW Snowy Monaro region. With a stay-at-home mum, a shearer father and two older brothers, she is the first in her family to attend university.
CEF grant recipient 2014
Country Education Foundation of Snowy Monaro
Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Creative Writing
Masters of Arts in Writing
Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management
University of Newcastle
University of New England (online)
Deakin University (online)
Network Manager, Country Universities Centre
FIRST CONTACT WITH CEF?
Shannon was very close to her grandparents, and it was her grandmother who encouraged her to apply for a CEF grant when she was thinking about withdrawing from her degree.
“It was actually one of my first formal interviews, and a really great learning experience for me at 19.”
The Country Education Foundation of Snowy Monaro saw the value in helping Shannon further her education in the arts, something she is very grateful for as she believes the sector is important to our society and how we connect to each other as human beings.
The grant not only gave her financial assistance, but like many CEF recipients, it gave her a sense of confidence that she had achieved something, and that now she could go out and achieve more.
MOVING FOR STUDY
Shannon says her small country world opened up exponentially when she chose to move seven hours away from home and the support of her family to study a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle.
Self-admittedly shy and introverted, Shannon says that to her, ‘fun’ was (and still is) staying in and reading a book. She found it difficult to make friends, and was young and scared of things like using public transport and found it difficult to ask for help – a scenario all too common for country students moving to cities.
Her second year became much easier as she found her rhythm. She has since completed her Master of Arts in Writing with the University of New England and is currently working toward her Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management via distance with Deakin University. She is testament to the fact that once you find your way, you can achieve anything, and that a little support goes a long way.
“CEF will guide you through this journey, you just have to take the first step.”
“I really believe this shouldn’t be the norm though, and having CEF to support and prepare regional and rural students is really beneficial.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR COUNTRY YOUTH
Shannon has since returned to the Snowy Monaro region to be close to her grandparents, and does not regret this choice for a second.
She is now living in Cooma, and is working as the Network Manager for the Country Universities Centre (CUC), a not-for profit organisation building highly connected learning communities across regional NSW.
Shannon’s passion for her work and belief in the impact of CEF has seen her lead the charge for CUC and CEF to partner, providing increased and shared support for rural and regional students taking the next step in their education journey.
“Rural and regional students will always be at a disadvantage as long as there is a lack of understanding of the power of education, and poor connectivity.”
SHANNON’S TOP TIPS FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF COUNTRY STUDENTS
- Higher education gives you the opportunity to learn about yourself
- Not only do you come out with a qualification at the end, but you pick up fundamental skills and knowledge that will equip you for life
- Establish a network of people who think like you and who support you – that is the most powerful thing you can have in life