Western Chances has been supporting talented and motivated young people from Melbourne’s west for thirteen years. We launched our Alumni Community in 2016 and it’s been a wonderful way for us to reconnect with past scholarship recipients and find out what they are up to now. As you can imagine, it’s a treasure-trove of success with many of our recipients hitting the entrepreneurial trail and starting their own businesses.
Leesa grew up in Melton, attended Kurunjang Secondary College and received her first scholarship in Year 11 to support her passion for multimedia.
It was a VET Multimedia course that first piqued Leesa’s interest in design. Encouraged by her teacher she pursued her passion, studying photography, media studies and media authoring and then she progressed to tertiary education where she completed numerous courses. These included a Certificate IV in Printing and Graphic Art at RMIT, a double Diploma in IT (General and Web Development) at Victoria University, a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Digital Media at Swinburne and – finally! – an Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design at The Gordon Institute.
With the support of Western Chances, Leesa had many of her educational costs paid for, which allowed her to pursue her dreams. But for Leesa, as with many recipients, it was not just the finances that made a difference.
“Knowing someone external believes in you, acknowledges your dedication, and is prepared to put their money where their mouth is (with scholarship money) and go in to bat for you (with potential work placements) instils a little extra confidence.
Not having to worry about covering the upfront costs of study removes a common source of stress that can impact on results and completion of study. When I started with Western Chances, the slogan was “a hand up, not a hand out” and that’s truly what it was.”
Now a Werribee resident, Leesa says that her passion for both creative and technical skills is what led her to where she is today.
“It’s a common perception that you can’t be good at both the creative and the technical, or enjoy both equally, but I wasn’t quite sure where on that spectrum I fitted so I pursued both and ended up somewhere in the middle, which is how I like it!”
For Leesa, the decision to start her own business was a result of taking on whatever opportunities came her way
“This is quite a competitive industry to get into, so I decided to sign up for just one year of TAFE to start with, and give it 110% and see where I could take it. Part of this was looking for opportunities outside of class to get experience, most of which were voluntary, but one such opportunity led to being offered paid work so it made sense to get an ABN to make it easier to take ad-hoc opportunities like that.”
While there are always challenges with running your own business, Leesa says the variety of work is what keeps her motivated.
“I seek out, and thrive on, variety in my work. Not a lot of full-time jobs provide the level of variety that I want and you can easily become stuck in particular specialties and not able to move around as much as you’d like.”
“For example, one week I might be designing and laying out a school yearbook, and then move on to coding a website. In one day, I might do tasks as varied as helping a client set up email hosting, designing a poster, and working on integrating eCommerce into a website.”
Even though it’s been several years since Leesa received her last scholarship, the Alumni Community that launched in 2016 is providing her with more opportunities to grow her business.
“Now that the Alumni Community has been developed, Western Chances continues to provide me with networking, promotion and development opportunities. 10 years on, Western Chances is still putting their money where their mouth is and going in to bat for me and other alumni, just in different ways. Now the slogan is “the chance of a lifetime" – more like the chance that can last a lifetime.”
Image courtesy of Leesa Ward
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