LOCAL student Shanika Jones has been awarded a $45,000 scholarship from the Macpherson Smith Rural Foundation.
Shanika, from Valencia Creek, was selected from more than 200 applicants to receive one of four scholarship prizes.
The former Maffra Secondary College student is studying a Bachelor of Nursing at Federation University in Churchill, with dreams of one day becoming an air wing paramedic.
“Firstly I want to work in the emergency department; I think it’s something I would really enjoy and find challenging,” she said.
“I’d also consider being a bush nurse one day.”
Shanika said she wanted to make a difference to rural Victoria by providing emergency medical care.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping people,” she said. “I want those in rural communities to feel safe.
“People should be able to receive emergency medical treatment when it is needed, regardless of where they live.”
Speaking to Maffra Secondary College senior classes on Friday afternoon, Shanika encouraged students to persevere, and take every opportunity presented to them.
“Find your purpose in life,” she told them.
“Never give up and be willing to take up new experiences.”
Shanika has been a valued asset of her community, playing in the Maffra youth girl’s football team and volunteering at the Mounted Police Branch and Equine Hospital.
After realising the devastation of the 2006 bushfires in Gippsland, Shanika joined the CFA and has been an active member, working hard to help reduce the risk in the areas near her hometown.
Shanika was a respected leader among her school peers, and also won a swag of excellence awards and commendations in English, biology, legal studies and mathematics.
The MSRF scholarship includes $45,000 of financial aid plus mentoring, leadership development and individual counsel.
Shanika said the scholarship money had relieved some of the pressure of paying for university.
“It takes the burden off my family so I can be more independent and make my dreams come true,” she said.