Two Bendigo TAFE students – animal studies student Jessica Stone and graduate Kwe Kaw – have been recognised amongst Victoria’s most inspirational young achievers.
They are two out of three finalists for 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards VIC’ s Kangan Institute Inspirational TAFE Student Award, with the winner to be announced on 29 April.
A lifelong animal lover, Jessica Stone enrolled in Certificate III in Animal Studies at Bendigo TAFE to forge a career in working with animals. Living with Autism has meant additional challenges, including struggling with environmental changes, sensory overload, challenges with understanding large chunks of information and difficulty with communication.
Undeterred, Jessica sought assistance from Bendigo TAFE’s teachers and accessibility and disability support officers who supported her needs.
Despite taking longer (three years part-time, instead of the typical one year), Jessica successfully completed the Certificate III in Animal Studies in November last year and is currently studying the Certificate IV in Animal Studies.
The 27-year-old hopes her award nomination will inspire others.
“I am so excited to have come this far and for all my hard work to get recognised,” Jessica said.
“For anyone living with a disability that wants to get into TAFE, I want to say, don’t dis our ability, we can do anything we put our minds to."
Having lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for ten years before moving to Australia, fellow finalist Kwe Kaw was recognised for his determination to forge a new life in a new country through education.
“I’m happy to be a finalist. I didn’t expect to be chosen,” said Kwe, who was also named Bendigo TAFE’s Inspirational TAFE Student of the Year earlier this year.
With his family of Karen heritage and originally from Burma, the 20-year-old faced many challenges while growing up.
“In the past my family struggled with the war and my family moved to Mae La camp and that’s where I was born. In the camp, my family struggled with food, financials, electricity and access to water,” said Kwe.
“I came here (to Australia) in 2011 to have better access to education and to live in peace. When I first came here, I had no idea how to speak English.”
Upon completing secondary schooling, Kwe decided to pursue further education at Bendigo TAFE and enrolled in the Preparation for Study - Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways .
“The first day I was a little bit nervous, but the teacher gave me feedback that I did very well. I just kept trying again and again and again and my teacher gave me the inspiration not to give up,” he said.
Kwe also volunteered as a teacher assistant in English language classes at Bendigo TAFE, supporting teachers by translating for Karen students.
“I wanted to participate, get out of my comfort zone and do something I’ve never done before. (Through the volunteering program) My confidence grew and I learnt new skills and experiences,” he said.
Currently pursuing further studies in individual support, Kwe is working towards a career helping others in his community.
He has a message for other new settlers to Australia – work towards improving yourself through education.
“Find an English course and work with teachers one on one. Education is really important for improving yourself and you can learn many different things,” he shared.
Bendigo TAFE Chief Executive Officer Sally Curtain congratulated both students for their achievements.
“We are incredibly proud of Jessica and Kwe on being recognised amongst outstanding finalists for the 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards VIC. Their determination to pursue a bright future through education is an absolute inspiration to us all,” said Ms Curtain.
“Our students’ success also reflects strong support from their teachers. As an all-inclusive education provider, Bendigo TAFE is proud to play a key role in our community to support students in achieving personal and professional success, whatever their personal challenges or unique needs.”
The 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards VIC celebrates outstanding young Victorians across 13 award categories, with the Kangan Institute Inspirational TAFE Student Award recognising individuals enrolled in a TAFE course who have overcome adversity to find success through education.
Winners of the 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards VIC will receive a range of prizes, including $500 in prize money, with one of the thirteen winners to be chosen as the 2022 Victorian Young Achiever of the Year.
To learn more about Bendigo TAFE and its courses, visit bendigotafe.edu.au