Celebrating past and present students at Graduate Women scholarship dinner

On Saturday evening the Graduate Women NSW Central West Branch held its annual Scholarship Dinner at the Cowra Services Club.

At this event, local students were presented with scholarships as they start their tertiary education.

Hayley Amos from St Raphael's was presented with her scholarship by Sue Brown, the HSC Scholarship co-ordinator.

Hayley has wanted to become a teacher for as long as she can remember and will go to the University of Canberra to study Early Childhood and Primary Teaching.

Ella Gruessing from Canowindra High School was presented with the second HSC Scholarship, funded by the Cowra Services Club, and presented by Cowra Services Club Board Member Joanne Treasure.

Ella is also going to the University of Canberra to study Bachelor of Primary Education as she has always wanted to have a positive effect on young children.

The Dr Barbara Wright Post Graduate Scholarship for students from the Central West was awarded to Amanda Bergan and presented by committee member Cathy Starr.

Amanda, born in Bathurst, is an outstanding young woman who graduated from Charles Sturt with a Bachelor of Human Movement and Bachelor of Teaching in 2009.

She is currently teaching in West Wyalong where she displayed a natural talent for teaching special needs students.

She switched from PDHPE teaching to a permanent teaching position in Special Education of the multi categorical class, which included students with Autism, Tourette's, intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions, among others.

Amanda delivers online and face-to-face professional development courses for the Department of Education.

While this can be challenging, Amanda finds her work the most rewarding teaching, and the students are inspiring her to become an even better teacher.

Last year she finished a Master of Education in Special Education.

Apart from being an exception teacher Amanda has travelled to 38 countries, run in nine marathons, an ultramarathon and has qualified to represent Australia in the World Championships of the Spartan Racing in Greece later in the year.

This year Amanda will begin her PhD in Special Education at the University of Wollongong, where her research will combine her passion for special education and that of educating teachers, hopefully to result of improving the education system.

The guest speaker for the night was the inspirational young woman, Steffanni Gardener.

Steffi was educated at Cowra Public School and Cowra High School where she graduated with an exceptional ATAR mark in the HSC.

Steffi graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Creative Arts (1st Class Honours).

She received the University Medal in the Faculty of Law, Arts and Creative Arts at Wollongong and delivered the graduation address.

She hopes to begin a PhD after her M. Bus is conferred.

On Saturday, her address, titled "What I Would Tell My High School Self" was aimed at the Cowra High School and St Raphael's school students who were present along with teachers.

She gave nine points for HSC and later life survival.

She spoke of growing up and finding out who she was, while studying for the HSC along with the worry of perhaps not achieving a particular goal.

She encouraged students to have other plans as it is okay if "Plan A" doesn't work.

Give yourselves options.

Her next point was not to burn out - do other relaxing things, have patience and look after yourself.

Between the ages of 16 to 19 years old there is still a lot to learn, life is a continuous learning experience so don't work purely to one attainment.

There is more after that.

Remember to congratulate yourself for your achievements whatever they are, as there is always someone doing better - and only one "best in the world" and that person is dependent on who you ask.

Do not spend time equating yourself to a mark as you are worth more than that and should be proud of any achievements.

Don't forget your teachers and adults are human like you so don't be mean and rebellious (as Steffi felt she was) and turn that attitude around.

Look after your friends as these are special and eventually you will meet more special people that you must also keep.

Cowra is a wonderful place to grow up as there is such wonderful support but remember it is a bubble in a very big exciting world so you must stay open to suggestions and greater knowledge.

Steffi reminded everyone that you have successes but you are not the sum of successes, so if things don't go to plan, and sometimes it won't, this does not impact your value.

Steffi finished by stressing how important it is to do what you like doing as she has experienced working in another area and not feeling happy in the last year.

She is now positive about it now as she she is back working with theatre and directing while furthering her education.

One of Steffi's former teachers, Viv Meiklejohn, moved a vote of thanks to Steffi and presented her with a memento of her visit.

Among those attending were Steffi's former teachers, drama and dance teachers who enjoyed catching up with Steffi again.

The committee were delighted that so many people could hear Steffanni and support the scholarship winners.

The next function will be held on Sunday, April 19 with an address Jon Wickham on WWI and the women involved.