A scholarship to the University of Sydney changed Kawana Crowe’s life. Now the 20-year-old Wiradjuri woman from Macksville wants to help other rural, regional and Indigenous students find a pathway to university.
The third year science student will share her story with prospective students at the Meet Sydney event in Coffs Harbour on 23 June. The session will provide information about the University of Sydney for local high school students in years 10-12. It will cover courses, admission requirements, entry schemes, fees and scholarships, as well as support available for students on campus. Current students and alumni from regional NSW will share stories, tips on moving away from home and insights into their journey to university.
Crowe dreamed of studying science from childhood, but attending university often seemed like an impossible challenge. Both her parents left school in year 10. Her father died from cancer when she was eight, leaving her mother to support the family on a single income. Due to financial hardship, they moved frequently – seven times before Crowe started high school.
“In the world I grew up in, ‘scientist’ was not represented as a viable career option,” she said. “I only knew it was possible because I watched a lot of CSI-style forensics television shows. But I had some great teachers at Nambucca Heads High School who opened doors for me.”
Despite changing schools several times as her family moved, she achieved excellent academic results. Socially, however, school was difficult.
“I was a social outcast from the minute I started school to the minute I finished,” she said. “I never had a group of friends. I was badly bullied. I was smart and I didn’t care about socially normal things, so I found it hard to fit in. I was a distressed kid.”
“I want to make other regional, remote and Indigenous students aware that university is a possibility they can consider. There are pathways and support available.”
In her year group at high school, many students left before year 12. Only a handful went on to university. “Higher education wasn’t really a visible option,” she said.
Crowe did her own research and discovered the Early Offer Year 12 (E12) scholarship scheme for students experiencing financial hardship, from areas of socio-economic disadvantage, or rural and regional schools.
With support from the scholarship, she is thriving at University, studying genetics, genomics and microbiology. In October, she will travel to Paris to compete in the International Genetically Engineered Machine research competition. Crowe and her fellow University of Sydney team members are working to develop a better Rapid Antigen Test. She plans to study honours next year.
“Coming to uni has been wonderful,” she said. “I’m learning and exploring different things, and I’ve made some amazing friends. They’re all a bunch of nerds like me.”
She works as a student ambassador and is passionate about showing others that university might be an option for them. “I want to make other regional, remote and Indigenous students aware that university is a possibility they can consider. There are pathways and support available.”