IT helped hundreds of students cope with trying circumstances beyond the classroom. Now, the University of Newcastle is seeking public help to fund a program designed to help promising students shine.
On Wednesday the university launched a public appeal to help meet enormous demand for a scholarship program designed to help talented students snared in circumstances that have limited their opportunities to succeed.
Vice-chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen said more than 400 students applied for Shaping Futures Scholarships this year, far beyond what the University could support without the help of the community.
The scholarships offer students experiencing disadvantage $4000 for safe accommodation, transport, books and other necessities. The university said it caters to a larger proportion of students from a low socio-economic background than other institutions, with its ratio of almost one in four above the sector average.
“I encourage community members and local businesses to consider a tax-deductible donation before 30 June so that together we can provide more students with the powerful gift of education and new opportunities,” Professor McMillen said.
The 154 students supported through the scholarships since 2011 include Natasha, a survivor of family violence who attended more than 12 schools fleeing domestic violence situations.
“Some days, I wondered if I’d ever make it out of that life,” she said. “But as I grew older, I started picturing a different life for myself and my siblings.”
Natasha, who is studying psychology towards becoming a criminal psychologist and cares for her siblings, said receiving one of the scholarships last year helped immensely.
“I was finding it hard to support myself and the scholarship helped me afford things such as food, books and a laptop,” she said. “It was encouraging that someone out there cared about my future - I’ve never had that kind of help before.”
Biotechnology graduate Brandan said the scholarship helped ease the burden of juggling study, work and caring for his father, who has a disability. He also overcame his own health issues during his studies.
“Without the scholarship, I would have been completely ruined,” he said. “It helped me buy essentials, like a bed and fridge.
“But it also gave me reassurance that I was doing a good job and that I’d get through the hard times.”
“I’m excited to start my research career and give back to the world.”
Professor McMillen said the scholarship could help unlock great potential by supporting students in their education.
“I have seen many bright students like Brandan and Natasha who have a hunger and heart to make a difference,” she said. “With help from the community we can continue to support these students with the education and opportunity that every young person should be granted.”