Gunnedah’s Eddie Easton is wrapping up his engineering studies as a finalist for the Community Education Student of the Year Award.

He was selected as a the top 10 finalist from nominations Australia-wide.

Mr Easton told the Gunnedah Times his nomination was “for really putting [his] mind to [his] work and trying to stand out a bit in class.”

All community colleges in Australia were asked to submit a Community Education Student of the Year nomination.

Eddie is an apprentice at Stripes and is receiving the theory side of his training through Community College Northern Inland.

Community College campus coordinator Prue Jeffrey spoke about the process culminating Mr Easton in receving the finalists spot.

“After speaking with [the teacher] Steve [Wicks] and Stripes, we put a nomination forward for Eddie and he was selected as one of the top 10 finalists,” she said.

“Obviously a part of doing an apprenticeship is not only the theory in the classroom but it is the practical and the workplace as well.

“What we see in the classroom and the dedication that Eddie was putting in, we wanted to work together, as one, with the employer to ensure that we were definitely nominating the right man.”

“It feels good to know that your work is getting recognised,” Mr Easton said.

Community College Australia had a Facebook live presentation to announce the winner on Friday, December 1 and even though he did not receive the award, teachers were ecstatic that Eddie received the recognition he deserved.

Eddie Easton, Community College Northern Inland Prue Jeffrey and teacher Steve Wicks.

The Gunnedah campus chose to come together to celebrate on-site with Eddie’s family, teachers and peers.

“It was good to see work colleagues and everyone get around it,” Mr Easton said.

“They have all been pretty happy for me and congratulated me on it.”

Mr Easton is finishing his final year of his engineering studies.

He has appreciated his last year with the education provider and when asked how the teachers were, he replied: “It’s really good. They help you out a lot, really explain it pretty good,” he said.

Sixteen-year-old Mr Easton had started his trade education at TAFE after completing his Year 10 RoSA but only a couple of months into his apprenticeship, COVID made its way to Australia.

“I think the biggest thing that stood out for the campus nominating Eddie is he has shown massive resilience during his study,” Ms Jeffrey said.

“He has moved [registered training organisations], he has gone through COVID [online] studies … and started at the age of 16. So to be able to get through that at such a young age and show that resilience … it is a massive achievement.”

“The best choice I made,” he proudly said in reference to leaving high school to start his apprenticeship.

He had started his studies in the January before COVID ramped up in March.

“It was a bit of a struggle to get online and do it all. Not having a teacher there and sort of having to do it on my own,” Mr Easton said.

Like so many students in the last few years toughing out studies in lockdowns before moving back into the classroom, his studies are coming to an end.

His teacher Steve Wicks had recognised how Mr Easton is coming into his own at his job.

“Eddie is a bit of a mentor at his worksite as well so the first and second year [apprentices] look up to him for assistance and giving them a bit of hand as well so he’s pretty good at his job, which makes life easy,” Mr Wicks said.

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