Describing 2020 as a challenging period for last year's Year 12 students is indeed an understatement.
But, for former Great Lakes College senior campus, Tuncurry alumna, Alana Williams the past 18 months has been a time of character building, learning about tenacity, determination and an ability to fight back.
"It has been a real eye opener," Alana said.
"And, it has taught me resilience; knowing that what life throws at me I can tackle it, I can bounce back," she said.
Alana was one of the thousands of 2020 cohorts who sat for their higher school certificate during the deadly pandemic, and who has continued to thrive as COVID-19 refuses to go away.
In her first year of a two-year Bachelor of Business Management majoring in accounting at the International College of Management, (ICM) Manly, Alana is also one of more than 130 students awarded a $28,000 scholarship at the prestigious college.
Alana's studies will also include an additional nine months industry training, a major consideration behind her decision to study at the private college.
Her end goal is to become a chartered accountant, which is obtained through the professional accounting body CPA Australia (certified practicing accountant).
She also said her decision to study at a private college was the emphasis it placed on the students and the industry component that she believed would give her a competitive edge over students studying at a traditional university.
"The college places a lot of emphasis on professionalism," she said.
"Every class you must wear business attire like you would in the profession, which drew me to the college.
And, it has taught me resilience; knowing that what life throws at me I can tackle it, I can bounce back.Alan Williams
Alana did admit that gaining early entry to the college took a lot of stress and pressure off her HSC studies and exams.
"I was just over the moon (when she learned about her early entry).
"I felt someone had belief in me and what I could do in my life."
With a natural ability for maths and a strong interest in business, accounting was a perfect fit for Alana's future career prospects.
While Sydney's worsening COVID-19 cases have forced her to return home to Forster she said on-line study had become more the norm of late.
She said the college's many international students had been learning from their homes overseas.
"Studying from home has allowed me to further my connections internationally with the college's international students and it has allowed me to become closer with my lecturers and make that closer connection due to the smaller class sizes."
ICMS scholarships chair Ann Whitelock said she was inspired by scholarship students.
"Their level of commitment is impressive.
"Many are leaders and contributors throughout their school and extra-curricular lives, or have triumphed over situations of real adversity, or are first in their family to attend tertiary education, or this might be the first recognition award ever received.
"We encourage rural and regional students to have a go."
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