Living and working in the fourth-worst borough in London can be tough. In the suburb where Jesse teaches, English is not the first language for 82% of her students. Poverty and long-term unemployment are the norm.

But Jesse believes in the power of education to change lives. It changed hers.

I was raised on a farm in the Riverland, 250 kilometres northeast of Adelaide. Loxton was our nearest town. We were a close-knit family and my childhood is full of memories of my sister, two brothers, and I helping out on the farm, and long commutes to school and back each day on the bus. Term breaks were for camping trips – usually combined with educational experiences.

Although I cherished life in rural South Australia, I yearned for adventure. Day trips to Adelaide were a rare novelty and I used to be excited to see what the ‘city kids’ were up to. I decided when I grew up, I wanted to experience life outside our small community and have a job that could take me anywhere in the world. Tertiary education was something I aspired to in order to get there.

Throughout school I was always interested in teaching and I worked hard during Year 11 and 12 to get the best ATAR score I could. A random conversation with someone towards the end of my schooling was serendipitous. They suggested I apply for a UniSA Rural Reconnection Relocation Scholarship, ‘just to see what happens’.

Not everyone is eligible for Centrelink, and not everyone has a family who can support them while living away from home. Several family friends had already had to give up study and move back home from university due to their own or their family’s inability to support them financially.

When I discovered I had been awarded the scholarship I was thrilled! A dream that would have been otherwise out of reach was now a reality. Removing the worry about how I would afford text books or rent made all the difference to me and my family, and it felt like my hard work had paid off.

I was interested in becoming a visual arts teacher and so enrolled in both a Bachelor of Visual Arts and a Master of Teaching. This gave me the opportunity to work across a wide range of specialty subject areas as well studying professional teaching disciplines. I had access to state-of-the-art facilities, surrounded by like-minded people, and as a result was able to make lots of new friends.

Being able to give back was important to me and I volunteered for the Career Awareness program which engages with secondary school students to raise their aspirations towards university education. The program is a fantastic initiative and it reinforced my desire to work with young people. I also volunteered as a student mentor and led campus tours, STEM workshops, and promoted tertiary education to visiting rural school groups.

I found it very demanding to keep up with my studies as well as travelling home to help on the farm on weekends and holidays, but without financial assistance it would have been impossible. When life became overwhelming, my motivation to continue was the thought of my future and where it could take me. I had come so far, worked so hard and uprooted my whole life to be where I was. With so many exciting possibilities on the horizon, I couldn’t give up.

Jesse at her graduation ceremony

Jesse at her Graduation Ceremony

Although beneficial to my growth, my teaching placements were rather challenging. I was placed at ‘tough’ schools in Adelaide’s outer suburbs and days were filled with long drives, juggling lesson planning, staff meetings, after school clubs, and staying late to mark student work. This had to be managed alongside university assignments and part-time employment – a very fine balancing act. When it all seemed too much to handle, it was encouraging to remember that donors believed in me and wanted me to succeed.

After graduating, I was thrilled to land my first job in far North Queensland as a distance education teacher. I was teaching students who were unable to attend traditional school environments due to remote location, mental health, or medical issues. Although I never met many of them face to face, I found the role unique and rewarding and it allowed me to broaden my curriculum knowledge across a range of subjects, and even teach vocational education.

At the end of 2017, I successfully obtained a job as a TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Art Teacher in the UK. I took the plunge and relocated overseas – my childhood dreams finally fulfilled.

My first contract was at a coeducational secondary school with 1400 students located in the London commuter belt. The school was in an economically disadvantaged area where adult learning difficulties and mental health problems were prevalent social issues. I had wanted to develop my teaching practice by working in tough schools, and this was nothing less than a baptism of fire!

At the beginning of 2019, I gained employment at a coeducational secondary school with over 2000 students, located in Brent. The borough is home to large areas of council housing and a diverse transection of society, with many struggling single parent families. It certainly wasn’t easy, but by ‘jumping in the deep end’ I found myself learning strategies to manage challenging behaviour, engage students, and raise attainment.

Jesse in the classroom

Jesse in the classroom

The irony is these tough experiences living so far from home, have proven invaluable for my personal growth. I never thought I would be as confident in my teaching as I am. Working in the contexts I have and seeing firsthand how education can lift people out of a cycle of poverty and unemployment, I am even more aware of the difference a scholarship made to my own situation.

Low income students face barriers to success at every stage of their education, but I firmly believe that generosity can make a huge impact. It can be the jump start that someone needs to pursue their passions and change the world. That’s where you come in.

I wouldn’t be where I am today if someone hadn’t believed in my future and encouraged me to be the best I could be. By making a donation to this year’s Scholarship Appeal your help can be a game-changer for a young person just starting out.

In my job I have the privilege of helping others overcome barriers that prevent them from reaching their goals. I am inviting you to do the same. When you give, you are saying with your actions that this is important to you – to get behind students like me.

Right now, there are deserving students with worthy dreams and aspirations, and whatever personal challenges they may face I can assure you a scholarship can be the one thing they need to change their life forever.

Will you support them?

Donate online at

Click here to read more scholarship recipient stories.

Donate directly to the UniSA Scholarship Fund

100% of your gift will go directly to support the UniSA Scholarship Fund - there are no administration fees, no overheads and no hidden costs

Donate now