Community Education Student of the Year Award 2021 Finalists

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Abbie Lee Russell, nominated by Atwea College

Abbie enrolled with Atwea College in 2020 and completed a pre-vocational program in Aged Care. Following successful completion of this program, Abbie continued her studies and enrolled to complete the full Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) in February 2021. Abbie’s college states that “Abbie has a deep level of understanding and appreciation for people in the later stages of their life”. As she was an early school leaver and young mother, her training in the aged care industry was delayed. Abbie supported her young family for a number of years before she had the opportunity to study again. She has turned this opportunity into a new career, obtaining employment in the aged care industry at RFBI Kurri Kurri Masonic Village before completing her studies.

Highly Commended

Patricia Gerhard, nominated by South Coast Colleges

After gaining employment as a carer, Patricia realised her knowledge was limited to the scope required in her work; she enrolled in and completed a Diploma of Nursing at South Coast Colleges in Batemans Bay. Patricia is a also a single mum to three children who is motivated to better herself and give an example to her children that learning is for everyone. Her college has much praise for Patricia’s efforts: “Patricia has put 100% commitment into this course, from a person who was unable to write and email to a person who is competent in navigating her way through research and assessment submissions.” Patricia is currently employed at Banksia Lodge Nursing Home Broulee, as an Assistant in Nursing.

Achievement Award

Layla Bacayo, nominated by Riverina Community College

Layla Bacayo is an illustrator, painter, digital artist and DJ. She is a young woman with neuro diverse features who attends the Art Factory Supported Studio at the Riverina Community College in Wagga. By attending the Art Factory, she has had the opportunity to collaborate and be a valuable contributor to the wider contemporary art world. Layla has collaborated with number of regional art galleries, including Griffith Regional Art Gallery, The Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, Eastern Riverina Arts and the National Portrait Gallery. Her colleagues have said of Layla: “Layla is a well organised, effective ambassador and advocate for people with neuro diverse features and disabilities. She is an outstanding young woman who has met many challenges and risen to be active member of our local community.”


Kasey Lewis, nominated by Central Coast Community College
Kasey is enrolled in Certificate III in Electrotechnology (Electrician) and the Work Readiness Program (WRP) at Central Coast Community College. She is a mature age Electrical Apprentice and has been “on the tools” for more than 12 months. Kasey’s studies and employment were originally in graphic design, however, she has always been good at pulling things apart and fixing them. This interest led her to seek an apprenticeship as an electrician, which took her two years to obtain. Her college says that “Kasey is a testament to women working in non-traditional trades and an ambassador for the electrotechnology industry sector. She will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in the future to facilitate change around the stigma of women in trades, mentoring others in the workplace and educating women looking for a career in the trades.”


Tracey Hosking, nominated by Community College Northern Inland

Tracey has completed Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) and is currently enrolled in Certificate III in Community Services and Individual Support – Disability Skillset. When her job was recently impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns, she decided on a career change and enrolled in an aged care qualification at Inverell campus of Community College Northern Inland. It wasn’t long before Tracey was offered a position locally as a disability support worker. Combining work and study was a challenge for Tracey, who lives on a farm with her husband and young family, and has had to travel long distances to attend face-to-face training. Tracey has already been recognised for her commitment to adult education and as an advocate for learning, winning a 2021 Adult Learners Week Scholarship in September 2021.


Miranda Broekman, nominated by Tamworth Community College

Miranda has completed Certificates III and IV in Business at Tamworth Community College. Miranda got a taste for politics when she completed a work placement whilst at school; since completing her Certificate IV in Business, Miranda has been employed in the Tamworth electorate office of the Deputy Prime Minister, The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP. She has been successful in attaining a promotion as a Junior Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, who is the Member for New England. Although she has the additional challenge of dyslexia, this has not impacted Miranda’s achievements and work ethic; her trainer has commented that “Miranda is an excellent student”. In early 2021, Miranda proudly won the Vocational Student of the Year Award for the NSW Training Awards – New England region.


Ethan Salo, nominated by TLK Community College

Ethan has completed a number of qualifications at TLK Community College, including Certificate III in Business, Certificate III in Retail, Provide First Aid and Safe Food Handling. Ethan had spent several years doing landscaping and carpet laying jobs, but found there were no full-time employment opportunities available for him. His college has commented: “His commitment to education and training with TLK Community College has demonstrated strong individual leadership and diligence, and his success provides a role model for others seeking pathways into employment.” Ethan was unemployed when he commenced his training with TLK Community College, however during his training Ethan obtained employment at Kincumber McDonalds, and shortly thereafter was selected to undertake the McDonalds training to become a store manager.


Dawn Leach, nominated by WEA Illawarra

After finding herself unemployed with twenty years’ experience in bookkeeping, Dawn decided to become a subcontractor, but found that with no formal qualifications this was not possible. She enrolled in and completed the Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping at WEA Illawarra. This qualification helped Dawn to obtain employment in the financial services industry, where she remains employed, with ambitions to open her own bookkeeping business in the future. WEA Illawarra staff commented about Dawn: “Dawn has done extremely well in her studies, with perfectionist qualities showing through – these are most important in this field of work.” Dawn is also a volunteer with SCARF who help refugee entrants to build a sense of belonging and to navigate starting a new life in Wollongong.

The Awards will take place through a virtual online event on Tuesday 22 February 2022 at 5.00pm Sydney time. You can read more about the 2021 Awards here.

Guest speaker: The Awards will be opened by the Hon Alister Henskens SC MP (pictured left), NSW Minister for Skills & Training and Minister for Science, Innovation & Technology

Funding for the 2021 Awards has been provided by the New South Wales Government.

Previous winners: View the “Honour Roll” of all previous Community Education Student of the Year Award winners here – 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The CCA Community Education Student of the Year Awards logo celebrates student achievement and symbolises the myriad possibilities and opportunities that learning provides. The triangle at the base of the figure represents the boost provided by the ACE provider, which supports and facilitates student confidence and learning. The multi-shaded vertical parallel lines, reaching upwards, embody the students’ potential and choice of pathways as they journey through life.