Shantell Bennett, at the ACU's Strathfield campus in Sydney, is the first of her family to go to university
Shantell Bennett is the first in her entire extended family to finish Year 10, let alone Year 12. But she has never found out her marks. The daughter of substance abusers, she entered foster care on her seventh birthday. Six of her brothers and sisters were eventually placed in the same foster home, reports The Australian.
"I had a lot of family problems growing up (and) was moving around a lot. When I graduated I didn't really do the best I could and I was really disappointed -- I didn't even look at my results."
Bennett did odd jobs before enrolling in a TAFE nursing course. But a longstanding desire to go to university persisted. "I didn't really know how to go about it," says the 21 year-old from Vineyard in Sydney's outer northwest.
Then a caseworker told her about the Australian Catholic University's equity pathways, which offer access to people from disadvantaged backgrounds and support through their studies.
Bennett didn't think she'd get in, even after being called in for an interview. She was "really stoked" when she got the nod -- along with a tertiary scholarship from the Sisters of Charity Foundation, which mentors disadvantaged young people at university and helps meet their costs.
The foundation estimates there are 40,000 young Australians in out-of-home care and fewer than 3 per cent of them attempt tertiary education.
It says that if more of them go to university, it will increase the diversity of people in professions such as nursing - reflecting the diversity of the patients - and help inspire a "ripple effect" of aspiration in their communities.
FULL STORY Pioneer student hopes for ripples of imitation (Australian)