Mums know best
By LUIS FELIU
TWO Tweed women, dubbed the "stars" of Murwillumbah TAFE College in 2004, have shown that motherhood or mature age are no bars to scholastic achievement.
Lynette Howell, of Murwillumbah, and Fran Lofts, of Pottsville, came equal third in NSW in the Tertiary Preparation Certificate course, attaining 298 out of 300 in their Tertiary Entry Score and beating hundreds of other students in 55 TAFE colleges throughout the State. The course provides mature-age students with an HSC equivalent and a pathway to tertiary/university study.
Course co-ordinator Jonathan Bader, who broke the news to the two mums on Friday, said the result was outstanding for the two who juggled family commitments and study over the two-year part-time course.
"Murwillumbah TAFE was third in the course behind North Sydney and Ultimo TAFE colleges ... so that's quite amazing for little Murwillumbah," Mr Bader said.
For Ms Howell, the result follows in the high-achieving footsteps of her 12-year-old son Jesse, who was dux of Uki Public School last year.
She has been accepted into the Bachelor of Business degree course at Southern Cross University's Tweed campus and awarded a $15,000 three-year scholarship by Tweed Heads Bowls Club to help her complete the course.
"The course was really good for getting an appreciation of the standards required in university and building my confidence for research and writing essays - it demystified the language used at a technical level," Ms Howell said.
"The fact that two of us rated third in the state reflects the support I was given here.
"The main reason I did it was because I tried to do a uni course externally in 2000 but found I couldn't interpret the questions so I dipped out very early because I wasn't getting it.
"I did a TAFE course before in computer applications for the office but that didn't get me a job ... I was looking for work but that didn't happen so I decided to go for education instead," she said. Ms Howell took on the course part-time to enable her to cope with both her student life and parenting.
Ms Lofts has been accepted into the Bachelor of Social Work course at Central Queensland University in Rockhampton and will undertake her four-year course via distance education.
"I did the course over 18 months - I had a business for three years but sold it and thought 'well what do I do know?' I'll start using my brain rather than the brawn," she said.
"Before that I had been a mum for 23 years - I did all the canteens and kindergarten reading and driving kids around to sports and all that.
"I was lucky I could stay at home with the kids as they were growing up but most women today don't get that choice," she said.
"I want a job from this, there's no other reason - I want to work till I'm 65 and achieve things, there's many challenges ahead for me," she said.
"I may not get work in the (Tweed) area but by the time I've finished, the kids would've moved out," she said.
Ms Lofts too seems to be following in the achieving footsteps of her children.
Her son Joseph, 18, starts a journalism degree course at Griffith University this year, daughter Abby, 23, is in her second year at university in Perth, Thomas, 21, is in his final year of an auto-electrical course and her youngest son Hugh has just started year 11 at Kingscliff High School.
"The whole course was a challenge and definitely worthwhile, I learnt so much, the staff and TAFE system were very supportive," she said.
Mr Bader said the course recognised the life experiences of mature-aged students.
"Lynette and Fran were outstanding because they brought their work and life experiences to it and made a substantial contribution to the group," he said.
"The result gives people a positive impression of what goes on in terms of study in the Tweed.
"I'm absolutely chuffed ... they've set the model for what can be achieved".