Young people located in regional areas aren’t always competing on a level playing field – especially when it comes to education.
But one organisation – the Country Education Foundation (CEF) – is helping to create opportunities with practical and emotional support for students.
Chris Mercer from Cooma is a senior theatre consultant, Molly Dennis from Goulburn, who was bullied into leaving school in Year 11, is now a full-time youth worker and Harry Tiernan from Cootamundra will become a dentist. Just three of the many amazing success stories of the foundation.
And they are among thousands of rural and regional students who have completed further education, thanks to the contribution of the CEF over the past 28 years.
Founded in Boorowa by Nick and Julia Burton Taylor, the foundation provided five initial grants to local students and expanded rapidly to Yass, Harden, Cowra and beyond.
There are now 44 branches across NSW, Victoria, Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia, all dedicated to giving country kids a chance to realise their full potential.
Almost $11 million in funds has been raised, supporting 5500 bright, ambitious young students who might otherwise have missed out on further education.
Region Media is proud to announce a community partnership with the foundation.
Juliet Petersen is the foundation’s CEO and says that more than 400 volunteers carry out the organisation’s work across Australia.
“Ninety per cent of our recipients complete their course because they have community backing behind them,” Ms Petersen said.
“They want to show their communities that the support works – nobody wants to see the students not succeed.”
Ms Petersen believes that the many trials and tribulations of 2020 demonstrated the strength of the model.
She said volunteers checked in with grant recipients, offered help and ensured that funds were well invested in student outcomes. The CEF has also partnered with tertiary institutions to offer co-funding.
Many grant recipients are the first in their families to go on to tertiary education and Ms Petersen said the CEF provides support where families are often not equipped to follow through, whether because of lack or resources or the impact of bushfires, drought or other major challenges for regional Australia.
The CEF has DGR 1 status, meaning that grants and locally raised funds are all tax deductible, while the foundation’s national office in Orange provides governance, administration and frameworks for work carried out at local branch level.
Ms Petersen says the late Tim Fischer, who was a keen supporter and patron, saw the CEF’s work as an investment in the future of rural and regional Australia.
That hope is exemplified by students like Cody who was encouraged to apply to CEF by his careers advisor in 2018 while he was in Year 12.
Lacking motivation to continue at school after a series of traumatic events including two house fires which left his family with virtually nothing, Cody was at risk of dropping out of the education system.
“Following the lifesaving efforts of the paramedics’ team during these events, and with the encouragement of his teachers and local CEF foundation, Cody undertook to study para-medicine at CSU in Bathurst in the hope of one day assisting others in the way that he was helped,” Ms Petersen said.
“I recall interviewing Cody back in 2018 and the discussion of how he could possibly even afford the bus to classes in Bathurst from Orange, while maintaining his shifts at the local IGA.
“Now in his final year of the course, Cody has his sights set on continuing his study of medicine, specialising in cardiology. He is an absolute inspiration”.
You can find out more about the Country Education Foundation and how to donate here.