A youth homelessness case manager with Project Youth in Sutherland Shire has been named TAFE's Digital Student of the Year.
Stacey Donohoe, 32, won a hat-trick of awards at the recent TAFE NSW Excellence Awards, including Student of the Year, Higher Education Student of the Year, and Health, Wellbeing and Community Services Student of the Year in the TAFE Digital division.
She completed a Bachelor of Community Services with distinction while working full-time as a youth homelessness case manager at Project Youth.
"It didn't expect it at all," she said. "But it reinforces that I'm doing what I want to do and that I'm good at what I do. It makes me feel like I'm going in the right direction."
Ms Donohoe previously completed a Diploma in Community Services through TAFE Digital and a Diploma in Business Management via correspondence, despite having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
She said the TAFE Digital model allowed her to pursue her goals in a safe and supported environment.
"The TAFE NSW Bachelor course was entirely online, which was a big selling point for me, as I struggle in class environments," she said.
"All the TAFE NSW teachers were so helpful and easy to contact, and that made it very comfortable.
"I can't afford not to work, so I was able to keep doing a 38-hour week and study at night or on weekends.
"The flexibility and balance that TAFE Digital provided was essential for me."
Ms Donohoe previously worked as a disability support worker before undertaking casual youth work, which ignited a passion for helping young people.
"Because of my lived experience, I realised I wanted to be the person I needed growing up," she said.
"Young people are already vulnerable and at-risk, so we don't want them to feel further isolated or alone.
"Listening, being there, and providing non-judgemental support gives young people a sense of safety and trust they need."
She is now studying a Master of Social Work through the University of Wollongong to become a qualified counsellor or behavioural therapist, all while expecting a baby in July.
"I'm due to give birth on the same day that semester goes back," she said.
"But thankfully I don't have assessments due for four or five weeks."