When Maddison Stead of Hervey Bay completed the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Head Start program in 2012 she knew of its many benefits.
A bonus she hadn’t counted on, however, was the effect her studies had on her younger brother.
Speaking at the recent Head Start graduation ceremony at USQ Fraser Coast, Harrison Stead said his sister’s experiences had inspired him to also enrol in Head Start while still at high school.
“What Maddison did helped push me forward,” Harrison said. “Her experiences at USQ gave me the idea and information I needed to enroll.”
The 17-year-old Xavier Catholic College student successfully completed the Geographic Information Systems course last semester and wants to pursue a career in either town planning or environmental engineering.
“It’s really cool that my brother has done Head Start too,” Maddison said.
“He’s starting to explore what’s out there in the world after high school. He’s taken the first steps towards a degree program that’s quite hard for young students.”
As the ceremony’s guest speaker, Maddison said Head Start gave her the opportunity to delve into university life and to challenge herself to succeed.
“Succeed I did, with the support of my now USQ family. I was able to prove to myself that whatever I put my mind to, I could accomplish,” the student ambassador said.
“I’m not saying I wasn’t scared. Walking into the university laboratory dressed in my high school uniform, I was, but within minutes of being around USQ people I knew that was where I was meant to be.
“I enjoyed the program so much that I did my second Head Start course in 2012 during my senior year at high school.
“On completion, like all the graduates here now, I was guaranteed entry into a related USQ program. I was given credit points towards my degree; my first Head Start course was free and each course gave me two points towards Queensland Certificate of Education.
“Head Start also helped me in my first year at USQ with a smaller study load than most of the students. It also gave me the confidence to decide what I wanted my future career to be. So in 2013 I started my Bachelor of Nursing.”
Harrison was among 20 high school students graduating from Head Start at USQ Fraser Coast after successfully completing one or more courses in Semester 3, 2014, and Semester 1, 2015.
Jamie-Lee Griffiths, 16, of Gympie completed Music Contexts 2: Western Popular Music by distance education.
“I’m really happy with how I went,” Jamie-Lee said. “I’m so happy with my result that I’m doing another Head Start course this semester.”
Jamie-Lee regularly sings and plays lead guitar with Gympie band Jamie & The Giants. She also plays trumpet and performs at local ceremonies such as Anzac Day and Police Remembrance Day.
Hervey Bay’s Kerri-Anne Hetherington, 18, completed a marketing course through Head Start last year and is now in her first year of the USQ Bachelor of Business program.
With a goal to specialise in events or tourism she currently volunteers at Fraser Coast Opportunities’ events.
“Events can be taken to different levels,” she said. “Head Start helped me plan out the next three years of my degree, and to realise what uni is like – it’s so different to high school.”
USQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas congratulated the latest cohort of USQ Fraser Coast Head Start graduates.
“Since the USQ Head Start Program started in 2005, more than 800 students have successfully completed a University course while still at high school,” Professor Thomas said.
“They are now joining an elite group of graduates who have accomplished great things since beginning their journey with us.
“The dedication and commitment these students have shown to their studies is inspiring and ensures the future is in great hands.”
USQ Fraser Coast Executive Manager Brett Langabeer said the graduating students had already had shown themselves to be exceptional people.
“By completing a university course while balancing school and family lives, they’ve taken deliberate action to give themselves the best chance to succeed in their chosen fields.
“They’ve had exposure to a university setting that will set them up to be ahead of the game as professionals in the workplace.”
(Source: University of Southern Queensland)