With Christmas fast approaching it’s easy to get lost in the swirl of consumerism. With all the flashing lights and mistletoe – before you know it you’ve spent your Christmas budget on gifts, decorations, food and more.
But Christmas is also a time to reflect, a time to give thanks for what we have, and to think of those less fortunate then ourselves.
It’s a time to give back to your community and share in goodwill for all.
Part of being a member of the ACU community is actively participating in our Mission. One way ACU lives this Mission is through our equity scholarships, which provide financial support for students experiencing hardship.
Take first year Bachelor of Teaching/Bachelor of Arts (Humanities) student Aaron Brown, who is studying at our Brisbane Campus.
Aaron thought he would be heading back to his rural home town of Emerald at the end of the year, rather than pursuing his dreams of becoming a teacher, after struggling with the expenses of university.
Fortunately, Aaron was the recipient of the Catherine McAuley Scholarship, worth $2,500 for each year of his four-year course, and the $15,000 Edmund Rice Education Australia & St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace – Equity Scholarship, which has allowed him to continue his studies at ACU.
Ultimately Aaron’s dream is to return to the country classrooms, to teach and support regional students.
“The community did a lot for me and I’d really like to be able to give back, even if it’s just helping one kid,” Aaron said.
Second year Bachelor of Nursing/Paramedicine student Verity Watt is another inspiring example of an ACU scholarship recipient who is giving back.
Drawn to the caring professions for as long as she can remember, Verity also has a strong passion for social justice and equity.
One of her biggest projects was initiating “Open Minds” – a youth-led music event in Port Campbell aimed at removing the stigma around mental health.
During her first year of study at ACU’s Ballarat Campus Verity said she faced her own mental health challenges.
“First year Uni involved a huge change to my life,” she said. “One that at times was a difficult adjustment. Moving away from my family, friends and support network definitely took a toll on my mental wellbeing,” Verity said.
But being awarded a $4,000 Sisters of Mercy Scholarship has made a big difference to Verity’s life.
“It alleviated a lot of potential financial stress and gave me a safety net,” she said. “It also represented the great support you have in a small close-knit community – to have someone support you like that is a pretty good feeling. It’s like someone else is investing in your future.”
Stories like these demonstrate the powerful impact scholarships can have on our students’ lives.
And, just as Verity and Aaron speak of “giving back”, each member of the ACU community also has the opportunity to make a difference.
Last month we launched our inaugural ACU Staff Giving program, which is a key component of our new philanthropy plan and offers all staff members the opportunity to make a real impact.
The staff giving program will support students just like Aaron and Verity by contributing to the Creating Opportunity Fund for equity scholarships.
Through this newly established endowed fund, ACU aims to double the number of scholarships available to students over the next five years.
The fund has been kick-started by a $1 million contribution from ACU and a pledge to match all donations to the fund dollar for dollar.
Staff giving will also support our community engagement work on the Thai-Burma Border and in East Timor.
So, this Christmas, why not take the opportunity to give back to your community and make a real difference in the lives of others.