Community Education Student of the Year Award 2020 Finalists Announced

Community Colleges Australia (CCA) is pleased to announce the list of finalists for its fourth annual Community Education Student of the Year Awards. The Awards ceremony will take place via a virtual “Zoom” event on Wednesday 25th November at 1.30pm (NSW/VIC time, 12.30pm QLD time).

The 2020 finalists (listed in alphabetical order of their nominating institution):

Kristal Barlow, nominated by Atwea College, Newcastle, who studied both the Certificate III in Individual Support (Disability) and the Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing). Her college describes her as “an inspiring young woman and dedicated student that has battled more than her fair share of hardship during her young life.”

Polly Berry, nominated by Byron Region Community College, who studied the Certificate III in Horticulture. Born in Cambodia and adopted by Australian parents, Polly has overcome many learning challenges.

Teressa Leigh Gass, nominated by Community College Northern Inland, Inverell, who studied the Certificate III in Individual Support, specialising in Ageing, during the past year. The College notes that she “is a determined young woman who has a positive outlook on all things in life, who doesn’t see her cerebral palsy as a barrier and has overcome significant hurdles to achieve her learning and career goals.”

Olivia Wales, nominated by Macarthur Community College, who studied the Certificate III in Business Administration Medical. Her employer has promoted Olivia to the Assistant Practice Manager of a new medical centre, even before her traineeship had officially completed.

Kirsty Cottrell, nominated by Riverina Community College, Wagga, who studied the Certificate III in Hairdressing. The college comments that “the skills Kirsty has obtained during training are already at a high level of expertise considering she is only one year into her hairdressing career path.”

Ayva Steel, nominated by Tamworth Community College, who studied both the Certificate III in Business and Certificate IV in Business. Her college describes her as “an outstanding young lady who has met so many challenges in her life with determination, motivation and confidence. This is how she has also met her employment and training obligations, achieving outstanding results during her training and traineeship.”

Rocio Caraballo, nominated by VERTO, Bathurst, who studied the Certificate IV in Business through a 12-month Aboriginal Traineeship Program, and works in Organisational Development and Learning in the NSW Department of Communities and Justice’s Learning Design and Strategy Team. Rocio says: “Starting my traineeship and Certificate IV in Business was a big step in my life, and one that I needed to take to help jumpstart my career.”

Theresa Mapusua, nominated by Youth Development Foundation, Brisbane, who studied the Certificate I in Business through the Skilling Queenslanders for Work. Theresa – affectionately known as “Mumma” by staff and students at Youth Development Foundation (YDF) – is described as “the most amazing, caring, selfless person we have ever met at YDF.”


Community Colleges Australia also recognises the life and study achievements of Rebecca Hilton, who studied a Certificate lll Individual Support at Western Riverina Community College, Griffith, and who recently passed away. The College trainer notes that it was “an understatement of a lady I have had the pleasure to have meet and been able to teach.” Despite being unwell, “she never gave up and was determined to finish the course, completing her studies in August 2020.”


Sponsorship: This year’s Awards are proudly sponsored by the NSW Government, which will also supply cash prizes for the winner/s.

Eligibility: The 2020 Student of the Year nominations are all students who undertook formal study with an Australian not-for-profit adult and community education (ACE) organisation during the period 1 September 2019 through 31 August 2020/

Judging: Decisions on the Award winner/s will be based on the judging criteria of career and study achievements; communication, team and leadership skills development; and achievements in areas other than study and work, including community involvement.

Nominations: CCA welcomed all nominations from all not-for-profit Australian adult and community education providers, not limited to member organisations.

Winners of previous years Awards: This the fourth year of these Awards; the 2017, 2018 and 2019 CCA Community Education Student of the Year Award winners and nominees are available here.

Contact CCA via email for an invitation to the Event and a Zoom link, if interested in attending.

Read more about the 2020 Award finalists – including their photos – on this page.

Judges for this year’s Community Education Student of the Year Awards are Vanessa Iles, Manager of the Reading Writing Hotline, and Gordon Amann, former CEO & Principal of Coffs Coast Community College. The judging panel is chaired by Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia.

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