TWO Bendigo TAFE students have been announced as finalists for the 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards, recognising their achievements and contributions.
The 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards acknowledge, encourage, and promote the achievements of all young people, up to the age of 29, in Victoria.
Jessica Stone and Kwe Kaw are among the finalists. They were also two out of three finalists for the Kangan Institute Inspirational TAFE Student Award.
"I am so excited to have come this far and for all my hard work to get recognised," Bendigo TAFE student Jessica Stone said of the young achiever awards.
Being a lifelong animal lover, studying animals was an obvious choice for Miss Stone.
She enrolled in Certificate III in Animal Studies at Bendigo TAFE to pursue a career in working with animals.
Living with autism has made studying challenging for Miss Stone.
She has struggled with environmental changes, sensory overload, difficulty understanding large chunks of information and the challenges of communicating.
Still determined to complete her studies, Ms Stone sought assistance from teachers and accessibility and disability support officers who supported her needs.
Despite taking longer than most, Miss Stone successfully completed her Certificate III in Animal Studies in November 2021, and is now completing her Certificate IV in Animal Studies.
"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," she said.
Coming from a refugee camp in Thailand, where he lived for 10 years before moving to Australia, fellow finalist Kwe Kaw was recognised for his ability and determination to create a better life in Australia through education.
Mr Kaw was also named Bendigo TAFE's Inspirational TAFE Student of the Year earlier this year.
"I'm happy to be a finalist (for the young achievers). I didn't expect to be chosen," Mr Kaw said.
"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.
"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."
Coming from a Karen heritage and originally from Burma, the 20-year-old faced many challenges growing up.
After he finishing high school, Mr Kaw decided to pursue higher education at Bendigo TAFE and enrolled in the Preparation for Study - Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways.
He said he was a bit nervous on his first day but the teacher gave him positive, encouraging feedback and he just kept trying.
Hungry for more experience, Mr Kaw 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," he said.
By volunteering, his confidence grew and he learnt new skills and experiences.
Currently completing further studies in individual support, Mr Kaw is pursuing a career helping others in his community.
Sharing his wisdom to other new settlers to Australia, the young learner' advice was to find an English course and work with teachers individually.
"Education is really important for improving yourself and you can learn many different things," Mr Kaw said.
The 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards VIC recognises brilliant young Victorians across 13 award categories.
The Kangan Institute Inspirational TAFE Student Award celebrate individuals enrolled in a TAFE course who have overcome hardship to find success through education.
A variety of prizes are on offer for winners, including $500 in prize money, with one of the 13 winners to be chosen as the 2022 Victorian Young Achiever of the Year.
The winners will be announced on April 29, 2022.
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