Communities backing their own young people is at the core of the Country Education Foundation.
3 September, 2018
When a whole community acknowledges the value of their young people and stands behind their capacity to dream for a career that could take them wherever they want to go, teenagers have the opportunity to shine. Certainly for 18-year-old Ethan Christ, who at 14 years of age knew that a career in veterinary was his calling; his community’s backing set him on the trajectory to success.
Now studying for his Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Animal and Veterinary Bioscience), this talented young man might not have had the opportunity to pursue his passion had it not been for the support of his community and the efforts of the Country Education Foundation and its partners.
“I’ve always had a genuine interest in animals,” explains Ethan. “At 14, I took my dogs to the vet in Foster, where I met my ‘now mentor’ in veterinary medicine. Her compassion, her care and her holistic knowledge of the industry really cemented veterinary medicine for me; I just want to be just like her, an advocate for animal welfare. From work experience at the clinic, I was offered an after-school job where I would watch surgery; and it solidified my dream to do veterinary. She’s been my biggest support in the actual industry.”
Emotionally supported by his family and mentor, yet financially burdened, this Great Lakes region teenager knew that even with the marks required, in order to succeed in his dream, he would need to move to and study at the University of Sydney. Geographical isolation and the distance that rural and remote students need to travel to participate at regional and metropolitan universities is a huge burden financially, socially and emotionally. It’s a confronting time, even for metropolitan kids who are leaving the family home and travelling a short distance to university; but add those additional layers of complexity that involve a student leaving their family unit permanently or during semester, and it’s an enormous challenge.
Ethan is now studying for his Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Animal and Veterinary Bioscience)
“My biggest challenge was moving out of home. I’m a homemaker and need that feeling of safety, security and stability"
“My biggest challenge was moving out of home. I’m a homemaker and need that feeling of safety, security and stability. All of a sudden when you move out all of that’s taken away from you – and then there’s uni accommodation with 800-900 other people. It’s different from anything else,” says Ethan.
So how do you land in a new environment and have all the necessary supports, networks, contacts and knowledge that you need to thrive in a university or TAFE environment when you have up until then relied on your parents, teachers and your friends? That’s where the Country Education Foundation steps in. The recipient of a County Education Foundation Grant through the Great Lakes Education Fund, as well as an Audi Scholarship, Ethan – while challenged by the physical and cultural move from a small town to a bustling city – appreciates the support he’s received from CEF and the Audi Foundation, and what it has afforded him.
“It’s made a really big impact. At the beginning of the year, I was dealing with the realisation that I was moving out of home: and the need for money added to the snowball effect of instability and uncertainty. I just wasn’t sure how I was going to afford uni and rent. When I received the grant from the Education Fund and the Audi Scholarship on top of that, I felt safe and secure again in my ambitions. Rent is so expensive in Sydney; so knowing that money is there, it’s given me the ability to focus on my actual study and not on work and trying to find that money. I have a casual job but the study is my future.” The grant and scholarship has also helped with the cost of textbooks and a small iPad, which as a visual learner, Ethan can now efficiently write notes on.
Financially, CEF’s support made a huge difference to Ethan’s transition to university; but more than that, Ethan experienced a validation and newfound confidence. “Great Lakes Education Fund are in contact and it’s a good reminder that people are looking out for you, that someone’s following your journey and wants you to succeed. They’re always offering help, which I’m really thankful for. But also, I’ve had a lot of adult conversations with my sponsors which just gives me confidence; you take a moment to reflect and think ‘wow I really said that’.”
For other rural and remote teens considering a submission for a CEF grant or the Audi Scholarship, Ethan says, “Put yourself out there. Apply for those grants so you can grow and get the education and tools you need for the rest of your life.”
Currently in his first year, Ethan has four years to go and hopes to proceed with a doctorate of veterinary medicine on completion of this degree. “After that, I have plans to go back to the Great Lakes region for sure.” He enthuses. “Coming to Sydney has been a real reminder of the beautiful region I come from and how privileged I was to grow up in an area that is so rich in wildlife, beautiful beaches and clean air. But first I need experience elsewhere. I need to be armed with the best tools. I’d love to go overseas and then go back to Foster because I definitely appreciate that lifestyle.”
“Coming to Sydney has been a real reminder of the beautiful region I come from and how privileged I was to grow up in an area that is so rich in wildlife, beautiful beaches and clean air"
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