ALL CLASS: TAFE NSW Excellence Awards winner Ashton Lenard says his time at TAFE NSW has changed the course of his life.
A South Nowra teen who endured a torrid time at high school has had a remarkable transformation to be named among the big winners at the recent TAFE NSW Excellence Awards.
Ashton Lenard, 18, bounced around between four local high schools before dropping out in year 11, saying he struggled with mental illness and acceptance due to his sexual orientation.
With his life at a crossroads, he learned about the Certificate IV in Tertiary Preparation at TAFE NSW Nowra, a unique course that arms graduates with an ATAR equivalent and is an alternative to the HSC.
Mr Lenard thrived in the more adult learning environment of TAFE NSW and finished the course in 2022 with a strong enough ATAR to be accepted into a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) at university.
His extraordinary journey was capped off last month when he was named the CPALES Student of the Year at the TAFE NSW Excellence Awards in Wollongong.
“School was a very rocky experience for me and I had a lot of mental health issues I was dealing with,” Mr Lenard said. “In year 11, I was so depressed I just stayed home all the time; it was hard for me to imagine a future past the age of 18. My mum ended up finding the TPC course and even though I didn’t know much about TAFE NSW, I took a leap of faith.”
It was a decision that would change the course of his life.
“The environment at TAFE NSW was so much more respectful ad educational; the teaching was very personalised and we had so many wonderful discussions in class,” Mr Lenard said.
“It really did change my life and I wish more people know about the course.”
He said he was “over the moon” after being honoured with the Excellence Award, and urged other locals to consider going “back to school” and enrolling in the Tertiary Preparation Certificate.
“Everyone puts so much weight on the HSC but many young people don’t realise there’s an alternative option at TAFE NSW that would suit a lot of people more than traditional schooling,” he said.
He hopes to work as a psychologist at Headspace in the future, an organisation he said had helped him immeasurably in his teens.
TAFE NSW Executive Director Education and Skills for South, Kerryn Meredith-Sotiris, commended Mr KLenard and the other award winners for their commitment and dedication they have shown to their studies.
“These awards recognise our most passionate, industrious and skilled students, and the fact teachers are the ones who nominate the students’ makes it even more special,” Ms Meredith-Sotiris said.
“I have no doubt these students will go on to forge highly successful careers and will be wonderful ambassadors for TAFE NSW.”
Ms Meredith-Sotiris said the awards exemplified TAFE NSW’s commitment to training the workforce leaders of tomorrow.
“TAFE NSW is proud to equip students with practical skills and work experience so they’re ready to hit the ground running in their chosen field,” she said.
“It’s very gratifying for TAFE NSW staff to watch students grow and transform their lives through education.”
Ms Meredith-Sotiris said the awards emphasised the commitment of TAFE NSW to train the workforce leaders of the future when, where and how it suits them.
Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist, (02) 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428