Studying has always been a strong focus in my life. When I was pregnant with my two-year-old daughter Diana it just encouraged me to be more dedicated and persistent with my studies. When she was born it was difficult juggling university and being a mum but eventually I learnt that nap time was my study time and that an early bedtime for her meant at least three hours of study for me.
It was incredibly difficult balancing my time, however, my partner gave me much needed support on the weekends when he wasn’t working, which allowed me to keep up with the workload. Raising a family and studying has always been a balancing act, both physically and financially, but with the additional support, I have been able to do both, something I didn’t think possible.
I was eight-years-old when our family first encountered The Smith Family. We had just left everything behind to escape from domestic violence and relocated from a remote country town to Toowoomba. It was difficult starting again, having no friends or support other than my mum and two sisters.
Their sponsorship program allowed us to start a new life in a new school without my mum suffering with the financial burden of our education. It helped pay for school fees, uniforms, stationary supplies and educational excursions, which we wouldn’t have been able to afford. Having all the requirements for school made us feel like part of the community, allowing us to fit in with everyone else at school despite being the new students.
I’ve been with The Smith Family now for over ten 10 years, from primary school all the way into tertiary education. The program has encouraged me to pursue my dream of completing a law degree at university. Back in high school it was difficult imagining being a university student and I thought it was something I would never have the financial privilege of accessing.
When I found out that I was having a daughter straight after completing Year 12, I was overwhelmed with the difficulty of balancing full-time university with full-time motherhood. However, with the support, I didn’t feel as financially stressed about the prospect, and I had the extra support and motivation from my sponsor to do my best. I have also been able to study in the third semester of university, which has allowed me to complete my course a year earlier.
Now at 19-years-old my life is busier than ever. I am in my third year of university with one year remaining, I look after Diana and I work 20 hours a week in retail. Although at times everything is difficult, my partner and The Smith Family have been my two greatest supporters, encouraging and allowing me to pursue my dream and future. One of the biggest benefits of sponsorship is being able to access programs like career mentoring, which I will do next year. This provides a mentor to help guide me through my final year of study and advice on how to access the field of corporate law.
I am thankful for all the support and encouragement that I've been provided over the 10 years. I have been given an incredible opportunity to access university, something I always dreamed of but never thought would be a reality. I am so proud that I will be able to pursue my career and provide a better future for my growing family that I never thought would be possible.
You can help a young person like Michelle by sponsoring an Australian child through The Smith Family to support their education or making a donation today at thesmithfamily.com.au or call 1800 024 969.