Jim O'Brien appointed new chair of Hastings Education Fund

New chair: The Hastings Education Fund (HEF) has appointed a new chair, Jim O’Brien.

New chair: The Hastings Education Fund (HEF) has appointed a new chair, Jim O’Brien.

The Hastings Education Fund (HEF) has appointed a new chair, Jim O’Brien.

Established in 2011, the HEF operates to provide financial assistance and mentoring to local youth aged from 16 – 21 who wish to pursue further education. Since launching, it has assisted 130 young school leavers to commence tertiary studies and vocational training in pursuit of their career aspirations.

A well-known and highly respected figure in the local community, Jim brings strong credentials to this role, having worked in Catholic secondary education in Port Macquarie since 1975.

Jim was appointed principal at St Joseph’s Regional in 1985, and spent over 29 years as coordinating principal overseeing the growth and development of MacKillop Senior College, St Paul’s High School, St Joseph’s Regional and Vocational College (now Newman Senior Technical College).

Upon retiring in 2014, the Catholic secondary school complex in Port Macquarie had a total enrolment of 2,400 students.

Jim has been a keen supporter of the HEF since its inauguration six years ago, recognising its significant value to the local youth.

“Our region is well served by good government and non-government primary and secondary schools. We are also fortunate to have Charles Sturt, NSW and Newcastle Universities with a presence in the town,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Despite this, our region has one of the lowest percentage of school leavers accessing tertiary education. For many school leavers, the cost of going to university or even TAFE is an obstacle, especially when it means moving to one of our metropolitan centres to complete their tertiary education.”

HEF was formed to help offset these costs associated with further study, which might otherwise be prohibitive for some students, allocating grants based on demonstrated financial need.

These grants support a diverse range of education and career pursuits including undergraduate degrees, apprenticeships, traineeships, cadetships, diplomas and certificate level studies. The HEF committee is made up of volunteers who fundraise, drive sponsorship and facilitate the selection process as well as provide mentoring and leadership to successful candidates.

Jim replaces outgoing foundation Chair, Peter Cuskelly, who is relocating interstate. The HEF committee wishes to acknowledge Peter’s many achievements during his six-year term as chair and is grateful for his tireless work and outstanding dedication in making HEF the success it has become under his leadership.

Looking to the future, Jim intends to lead the HEF to continued growth and calls upon the generosity of the local community.

“We already have twenty-two Gold Sponsors and would like to build on that so that we can provide additional support to more young people in the Hastings area. We want to help young people in need who have aspirations and commitment to further their education and achieve their career goals.”

The patrons of HEF, John Ross OAM and Helen Ross OAM, have warmly welcomed Jim and the experience he brings to the HEF committee.

“We have personally known Jim for over thirty years when he was coordinating principal for Catholic education in the Hastings. On his retirement, Jim received widespread recognition for the outstanding work and contribution he made during his career. He is a great educator and a wonderful ‘people person’, making him ideal to direct the next period for the HEF,” Mrs Ross said.

Applications for 2017 grants have now closed with the selection process currently underway. The HEF is seeking donations from the local community and business leaders so that they may help as many young school leavers as possible.

If you would like to pledge your support, please visit the website http://bit.ly/hastingseducationfund or contact the HEF secretary, Joy Corben at hastingseducationfund@gmail.com

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