THERE must be something in the water in Cooktown, with the second local student in just three years being awarded a prestigious $20,000 four-year scholarship.
Lakea Hegamaea said she thought it was a prank call when the Harding Miller Education Foundation called to tell her she was among 60 students selected from 700 applicants who would receive the scholarship.
“I thought it was a friend prank calling and I hung up and they called again,” the 14-year-old Cooktown State School Year 9 student said.
“I was so excited and I rang mum straight away to tell her.”
Lakea, who wants to study medicine, said the scholarship would help her overcome potential obstacles to her future academic pursuits.
“Living in a remote community has its challenges as educational resources and opportunities are limited as compared to other students in my year level who live in regional cities,” she said.
“My goal is to become a doctor and travel to other countries and work there.
“My family comes from a very remote village in PNG and has limited access to medical supplies and medical staff and one day I would like to go to my father’s village and help out where I can.”
Harding Miller Foundation executive director Cara Varian said the scholarship was awarded to highly academic girls to support them with opportunities and resources they might not have access to.
“They are talented and dedicated, but they do not have access to the resources they need to make the most of their education opportunities,” Ms Varian said.
“Girls are more likely to pursue further education when they are supported with equipment, money for resources, tutoring and coaching, and that’s the support we are providing.
Ms Varian said the foundation focused on supporting girls’ basic needs to complete their high school education.
“We get satellites installed in homes to make sure the kids can access the internet; we supply noise-cancelling headphones if they don’t have a dedicated study space and we send out supermarket gift cards if families are having trouble with the groceries,” she said.
“These are tangible, practical things which we can do to give young women a hand to complete their schooling and fulfil their potential.”
Fellow Cooktown State School student Sophie Roberts was awarded the scholarship in 2020, and the now 17-year-old Year 12 student said it had helped her with numerous school costs.
“On top of the countless resources provided to me by the foundation, I received $600 at the beginning of each year to cover any education-related expenses, from pens to uniforms,” she said.
“I didn’t have to worry about the cost of anything on my booklist and was able to buy other necessities such as shoes and a new backpack each year.
“As I reached grades 10, 11 and 12, where subject fees became apparent, I could also allocate the money needed to cover these fees from my scholarship fund.”
Lakea travelled to Brisbane last month (May 22) to the Harding Miller Education Foundation awards night and was accompanied by Sophie, who missed out on her awards night in 2020 due to Covid restrictions.
“Initially I was nervous about attending, but it was an incredible experience and I was thankful to have some fellow Cooktown locals there along for the ride,” Sophie said.
“I had the opportunity to have a conversation with the Education Minister and she expressed her pride and amazement of our accomplishments, particularly as our school was the most northern in Queensland who had a scholarship recipient in 2023.”