Atwea Student named Australian Student of the Year

Carmel Kentwell lives by the motto ‘It’s not worth letting life get you down, you just need to keep going!’ and her journey is a shining example of overcoming life’s hurdles.

Carmel grew up in the NSW country town of Warren, near Dubbo, in a lower socio-economic area where she had limited access to educational opportunities. She also experienced recurring domestic violence, abuse and homelessness.

Carmel has three beloved children, aged 10, 13 and 19, who all have disabilities including oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD, communication disorder and developmental delays, and she is their primary carer.  Carmel envisions a different future for herself and her children and has worked steadily over the last 10 years to set their life on a new course.

Early in 2018 Carmel helped a friend manage her social anxiety by enrolling alongside her in Certificate III Individual Support (Ageing) at the Atwea Cessnock campus.  Carmel found she loved and excelled in the course, staying even after her friend decided to withdraw from it. Upon completion, she enrolled in the Disability stream of this qualification and plans to graduate in December 2019.

Carmel’s compassionate and selfless nature is continually demonstrated. During her time in the Cert III course Carmel noticed other students were struggling, so she created a study group for her peers so they could share knowledge, assist each other with technology and support each other with encouragement and study tips.  One co-student confided to Carmel that he would have dropped the course without her support, and he joined her in moving onto the Disability stream.

In recognition of her commitment to learning, her resilience and her compassion for others, Carmel was awarded 2019 Outstanding Student of the Year at Atwea’s Adult Learners Week in September.

And as icing on the cake, Community Colleges Australia (CCA) announced Carmel as the Australian Community College Student of the Year 2019 at their gala dinner held in Brisbane on Wednesday 20 November 2019.

In congratulating Carmel Ms Rowan Cox, Atwea College Executive Director, said that Carmel was an outstanding student who has the ability to see life through a glass that is always half full.

“Carmel’s ability to grow from her challenges is clearly evident, as is her commitment to learning and creating a career pathway for herself,” Rowan said.

Deborah Mercer, Atwea College CHC Trainer/Assessor also shared, “Having been her trainer in two courses now, I’ve seen many examples of her talent and her passion. Her ability to embrace challenges also empowers her and encourages others,”

Part of Carmel’s support for her family and their wellbeing is that she is determined to highlight the importance of growing, learning and achieving so that she can encourage her family to aim for big things and chase their own goals.

“Carmel’s vision for her future is to help connect with a peer support network or participate in community activities to develop stronger community connections, to support and help her balance her goals. She is a shining example of a next generation of care givers for our community and we are most humbled to have been part of her learning journey,” Rowan said.

Carmel plans to enrol in Education Support course in the hope of becoming a Teacher’s Aide with Atwea.

Link to the full video is here.


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