Receiving a USC Nursing Science degree this year was a crowning moment for Tabitha Kidd, whose academic journey involved overcoming many challenges, including having to leave school before finishing senior to support herself.
Now working at Nambour General Hospital as a graduate nurse, Tabitha, 32, believes she would not have gained the degree without support from a program offered through USC that helps young mothers re-engage with learning pathways.
As part of the Support Teenagers with Education, Mothering and Mentoring (STEMM) program, pregnant teenagers and young mothers can complete subjects from USC’s Tertiary Preparation Pathway (TPP) at Burnside State High School to gain entry to the university.
“I discovered there was no limit if you put your heart into something. You can do anything really with the right support and dedication,” said the Nambour resident, who had two children under three years old when she joined the STEMM program in 2010.
“I received good grades at school and had always wanted to go to university, but I had to suddenly leave home when I was 14,” she said.
“With the support of others, I worked really hard to stay at school for as long as possible, but it became impossible financially and I left before completing Year 11 to work full-time.
“I had always promised myself I would go back to studying but did not think that it would be possible with young children. Then I heard about STEMM.”
USC’s Tertiary Preparation Pathway Course Coordinator Emma Kill said the goal of the University’s partnership with STEMM was to empower women to engage in higher education while supporting them through any additional challenges of being a young mother.
“USC is committed to helping create equitable access pathways to tertiary education for those who would not have otherwise had the opportunity, equipping and supporting them through their academic journey,” Ms Kill said.
Tabitha completed the Bachelor of Nursing Science part-time while she and her partner raised their children on a single income.
“It was a big sacrifice to decide whether to get a job or go to university, especially when it became very difficult half-way through my degree when we had our third child, however USC supported me along the way to continue my studies,” she said.
“What started out as a support program really became a bit of a lifeline. When I wasn’t sure about something, it was my backup. And if I ever doubted myself, USC’s STEMM support staff never did.”
Tabitha said she would like other people in a similar situation to herself to know that there was support available.
“I tried to do it on my own,” she said. “But it was a big life lesson to know it is okay to reach out and let someone else help.”
Tabitha said the highlight of completing her degree recently was seeing how proud her children were of her achievements.
For more information about studying at USC, go to www.usc.edu.au/study
For details about STEMM, phone (07) 5459 7333.