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Brooke's determination recognised at Bundaberg graduation

Student of the Year Brooke Bowden was among the 59 students from TAFE Queensland’s Bundaberg campus who gathered to celebrate the culmination of their studies at the region’s first face-to-face graduation ceremony since 2019.

Fifty-nine Bundaberg graduates descended on Brothers Sports Club on Tuesday 7 December 2021 to proudly don their caps and gowns and receive acknowledgement for their hard work, determination, and commitment to their future careers, after overcoming the challenges posed by the pandemic.

TAFE Queensland General Manager (East Coast), Ana Rodger said that while graduation has always been a momentous occasion for students, given the challenges they’ve faced during the last 18 months this year’s event was particularly special.

“For the last 12 months we have held our graduations virtually, so it’s fantastic to be able to return to some sense of normalcy and provide our students with the recognition they deserve,” Ms Rodger said.

“This is such an exciting time of year for our students as they prepare to enter the workforce and pursue their career aspirations, and this graduation ceremony was an opportunity to reflect on their accomplishments and celebrate how far they have already come."

“There is no greater reward than seeing our students complete their studies, and we are honoured to not only have played such a significant role in their journeys, but also to have been able to share this special moment with them,” she said.

The ceremony was a proud moment for Diploma of Nursing (HLT54115) graduate and mother-of-two Brooke Bowden, who was announced as the recipient of the 2021 Bundaberg Student of the Year Award.

“I feel so honoured and excited to be recognised like this — it was a complete shock,” Ms Bowden said.

“Graduating is definitely a sense of relief, but it’s also super exciting. It’s been hard juggling everything, especially for the kids because they knew mummy couldn’t always be with them because I had to work or study, so now I feel like I can enjoy more time with the kids and focus on becoming a nurse.”

Ms Bowden has dreamed of becoming a nurse for as long as she can remember, but having struggled with learning as a child due to dyslexia, she initially let go of her career goals. But when her son was diagnosed with the condition, Ms Bowden said she wanted to show him that he could achieve anything he set his mind to.

“I feel proud for myself but also for my son. As a mother, you want your child to do better than you, so I hope that I’ve inspired him to be the best he can be and never give up on his dreams,” Ms Bowden said.

Ms Bowden is currently working in aged care while she waits for her registration to come through, and plans to one day continue her studies and become a registered nurse. But for now she's excited to start living her dream.

“I always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, and I because I have a caring personality and was interested in health, it just seemed natural to me,” Ms Bowden said.

“Now I get to do just that.”

Ms Rodger said students received certificate and diploma qualifications across a variety of study areas including beauty, business administration, nursing, horticulture and early childhood education and care, which they can now to use to contribute to the local community.

“We’ve seen students graduate and go on to do amazing things with the knowledge and skills they’ve learned during their time at TAFE Queensland, from becoming leaders in their field to starting their own businesses,” Ms Rodger said.

“No matter what career our students choose to pursue, their contribution is invaluable to the region and it fills me with immense pride to see them triumph.”