Transforming young lives by creating chances

Noosa Chances scholarship recipients (from left) Jemzel Costales, Lillie Mellin, Aiden McGuigan, Max Mellin and Tyla Lutzke, with Principal Brett Burgess.

By Melissa Grant

A good education has the power to change a young person’s life.

It increases self-confidence, builds aspiration and creates opportunities for success.

In Noosa, there’s a relatively new not-for-profit organisation that’s helping young people facing financial barriers to realise their educational dreams.

The organisation is called Noosa Chances and it has been awarding modest scholarships to students aged 12-25 since its inception in late 2019.

Noosa Chances already supports 19 students and will award a further 20 scholarships this year.

Founder and CEO Tara Bell says the need for scholarships is as great as ever.

“This year there is even more financial need with parents having lost jobs, so more kids are eligible,” Tara said.

Noosa Chances supports demonstrated talent across a diverse range of disciplines including academia, the arts, leadership and design.

The merit-based scholarships provide up to $1500 per year for the entirety of a young person’s education to fund expenses such as laptops, music tuition and instruments, art materials, stationery and school excursions.

“A lot of students are buying laptops. One student had never had new school shoes,” Tara explained.

“The scholarships support them right through to having a job essentially, potentially if they do medicine it could be more than 10 years. But we do ask to have evidence of marks being maintained each year.”

Scholarship applicants must be brought forward by someone involved closely in their education.

The principals of Sunshine Beach State High and Noosa District State High School are asked to nominate their top picks.

Tara still vividly remembers meeting the families of the first seven Noosa Chances scholarship recipients.

“We met with the parents and many shed happy tears. They were so proud of their child,” she recalled.

Noosa Chances is powered by volunteers and largely relies on events for fundraising.

So far, the organisation has raised around $230,000 from three events since its launch, including the Noosa Cup race day.

This year’s event is scheduled for Sunday 3 October, with Matt Golinski as guest chef.Tara started Noosa Chances after witnessing the great work Western Chances, a not-for-profit in Melbourne that has awarded more than 8000 new and renewal scholarships to students facing financial disadvantage.

While living in Victoria where she was involved with the Bennelong Foundation, Tara met the Western Chances CEO at a fundraising dinner. She knew she had to be involved so joined the marketing and fundraising committee.

“I got to see students receive scholarships and see how it benefited them,” Tara said.

“It wasn’t just the money – it was their confidence, their career prospects.

“Having been exposed to the not-for-profit sector via the Bennelong Foundation, and with many philanthropic contacts and mentors, I felt this endeavour, while ambitious, was possible.

“To see it happen here now in Noosa is amazing.”

Tara said Noosa Chances would offer scholarships more broadly in the Sunshine Coast once it had the financial capacity to do so.

“Certainly it is our intention to expand beyond the Noosa Shire in coming years.”

For more information or to donate to Noosa Chances, visit https://www.noosachances.org.au/

All donations are gratefully accepted and any donations of $2 or more are fully tax deductible.