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Lauren's efforts rewarded at Gympie graduation

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

Graduates descended on the Gympie RSL 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 Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) (CHC33015) graduate Lauren Waugh, who was announced as the recipient of the 2021 Gympie Student of the Year Award.

As a doting single mother-of-two and survivor of domestic violence, Ms Waugh wanted to re-enter the workforce in a career she was passionate about, was flexible, and would fulfil her long term.

“I vividly remember that first day at TAFE and thinking, ‘What have got into?’. As a mature aged student and with my own personal background leading me to that point, I kept thinking, ‘Can I actually do this?’ But now look how far I’ve come and I just wish I had the confidence to do it sooner,” Ms Waugh said.

Ms Waugh secured casual work in a local aged care home prior to graduating and has since been promoted to permanent part-time. And while she's keen to one day continue her studies and become a registered nurse, for now she's proud to graduate and excited to start her new career.

“No matter what I do, I still want to work in aged care,” Ms Waugh said.

“Already I can see the generational shift in the new residents coming in, and I think it’s going to be an exciting time of change in the industry.”

Ms Rodger said students received certificate qualifications across a variety of study areas including hairdressing, automotive, individual support, and early childhood education and care, which they can now 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.”