BENDIGO TAFE celebrated its impressive cohort of graduates during a ceremony at Ulumbarra Theatre last week.
The graduates successfully completed their training at TAFE over the past 12 months and were awarded with nationally accredited courses ranging from Certificate I through to advanced diplomas.
Among the graduates was Bendigo TAFE Diploma of Nursing student Jade Heavyside.
Ms Heavyside, a mother of four and a proud Wemba Wemba woman, was thrilled to finish her diploma after putting it on hold for several years to raise a family.
Fulfilling her nursing studies - and finally becoming a nurse - instilled a sense of pride in Ms Heavyside's children and her community.
"My children were my inspiration to complete my diploma," she said.
"I wanted to show them that by using your strength, will and determination, you can succeed in life."
Ms Heavyside was also the successful recipient of the Puggy Hunter Scholarship for nursing students, which is awarded to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students studying an entry level health course.
She worked with the Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative undertaking children's activities and sporting programs to provide additional support to her community. She is also part of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives.
The accomplished nurse is also involved in the Weenthunga group for Indigenous nursing students, which helped motivate and support her on her journey to becoming a nurse.
Of the attending TAFE graduates, more than 25 students received a Diploma in Community Services and more than 30 students now have a Diploma of Nursing.
Like many students over the past two years, Ms Heavyside has faced several challenges and difficulties completing her studies remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was hard trying to adapt to online learning at home, home schooling my children and ensuring we stayed safe through lockdowns and workplace restrictions," she said.
Through her dedication, persistence, hard work and the support of her teachers and peers, Ms Heavyside was able to successfully complete her studies to become a registered enrolled nurse.
"It is such a relief and honour to have graduated," she said.
"It is a surreal feeling because the past two years of completing the diploma have been so challenging.
"But I would do it all again."
Bendigo TAFE chief executive officer Sally Curtain said undertaking vocational studies at any time was a challenge, however, it was "exceptionally challenging" during a pandemic.
"To each of the students graduating this year, I want to personally congratulate them for prioritising their studies, overcoming these challenges and for completing their studies," Ms Curtain said.
"We cannot wait to see what your future has in store.
"I also want to acknowledge the incredible work of our teaching staff for getting each of these students to graduation.
"Without their incredible knowledge and commitment to their students, none of this would be possible."
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