After seeing the difference Western Chances makes in her students’ lives, Jane Williamson is committed to helping more young people access scholarship opportunities.
Aside from one year working at Mill Park Secondary College, Jane has always worked in Melbourne’s west. She’s now at Lakeview Senior College in Caroline Springs and in her role as Student Wellbeing Coordinator she regularly nominates students for Western Chances scholarships.
Jane’s first encounter with Western Chances came as a pleasant surprise. She’d started a new role and found herself responsible for scholarship renewals at short notice. Through the application process, Jane enjoyed building a rapport with the Western Chances team and became hooked on the chance to help young people address barriers to success.
For Jane, it’s the mix of financial help for a MYKI card, textbooks, internet and other resources, plus the professional networking opportunities, educational camps and university experiences that she loves.
“The opportunities and relationships that Western Chances offered some of my students have changed their lives.”
Identifying scholarship candidates is a rewarding experience that Jane cultivates within her team. Earlier this year, Jane shared with her fellow Year 12 educators what it was like being part of the Western Chances community and how applying for students was 'addictive'.
“I told my team that once you have a student who is successful and becomes a recipient, you want to find more and more students so you can give them the wonderful opportunities that Western Chances offers.”
Being an effective nominator means taking time to connect.
“The one tip I would tell someone who was wanting to nominate a student for Western Chances is to spend time with that student. Talk to staff members and teachers to get a bigger picture of the student and some references that will strengthen the application. And always bounce questions off the Western Chances team if you are unsure.”
Helping young people to reach their potential has long been a part of Jane’s working life.
“For a long time I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself so I travelled overseas and worked at an American Summer Camp in New York as a Lifeguard and volunteered at a Catholic primary school in Northern Ireland.”
When she returned to Australia, Jane got her first youth work role with the City of Melbourne. She worked with young new arrivals from the Horn of Africa who lived in the Flemington/ Kensington high rise flats.
“I was the coordinator of a basketball program that involved young people from the flats playing round robin style competition basketball with the Melbourne Tigers basketball team and building relationships with the local Police. I also worked for the council at Kensington community centre and worked for four years at Iramoo Youth Refuge in case management.”
All of these work experiences inspired Jane to go back to La Trobe University to add to her Bachelor of Arts Degree.
“I did a Graduate Diploma in Student Wellbeing so I could work in education where I thought I could have more of a positive impact. That was 13 years ago.”
What Jane loves most of all about working in education is the people she meets.
“I have a quote on my work wall written in a letter from Theo-Vincent Van Gogh’s brother, ‘The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more artistic than to love people.’
“My Big dream for the future is that all students have the opportunity to thrive and be accepted in whatever educational setting they choose. I want all young people to feel safe and supported at school and build relationships that they can cherish moving forward.”
To young people on the path to following their dreams, Jane says, “remain positive and persistent and continue to build relationships with inspiring and positive role models. Always keep learning.”
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