Most cash-strapped uni students love an op shop, but Paige Stephenson has an extra special relationship with her local. “I owe the op shop so much, it’s just incredible,” she says.
The fourth-year paramedicine student has now entered her final semester, and she says she couldn’t have made it this far through uni without the Inglewood oppy. The tiny Inglewood Ambulance Auxiliary Op Shop does a lot for its Loddon Valley community – including raising funds for a unique scholarship.
In 2013, not long after she started her course, Paige received a $20,000 scholarship for being a Loddon local studying paramedicine. “It was a shock. I wasn’t expecting it,” she says. “I didn’t really know much about the auxiliary, but I knew about the op shop, it’s awesome, it’s packed with stuff all the time. The scholarship has been a life saver. I don’t know if I could have finished the course without it.”
Paige has certainly made the most of her opportunities, and says once she graduates, she’s looking forward to paying forward her good fortune.
Paige grew up on a rural property just out of Wedderburn. She completed high school at Wedderburn College, but didn’t have a clear direction of what was to come next.
“I came along to open day at La Trobe and attended a lecture in the paramedicine department,” she says. “I just really liked the course. I researched all the other paramedicine courses in Australia, but Bendigo stood out for me. I liked that it was a double bachelor with health promotion. Plus it was spread over four years instead of three, so I’d have that extra year to mature before going out to look for a job.”
Paige spent her first two years living on campus, thanks to the scholarship. “It’s had flow-on effects,” she says. “If I hadn’t have been able to live on campus I wouldn’t have had all the opportunities I’ve had here.”
She became a residential leader, and is now the regional uni games liaison for the Bendigo Student Association, plus works with the uni’s School Partnerships Program, to introduce secondary and primary students to the idea of pursuing tertiary studies.
“A lot of good opportunities have come from the scholarship I think. I couldn’t thank the auxiliary enough. When I graduate and get a job it would be great to go and work in a rural community like Inglewood, so I can return what they’ve done for me. Ambulance Victoria is my number one priority, but anywhere in Australia would be good.”
Paige says her degree will also qualify her to work overseas. “I’m about to go to Minnesota in America on a three-week placement. It will be really good to see how their ambulance service works as well,” she says.