Since 2017, Western Chances and Toyota have had a partnership offering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) scholarships for talented young people in Melbourne’s West. But far more than simply financial assistance, the partnership has helped dozens of students grow their social skills as well as their academic qualifications to help them become the future leaders of the community.

    Joseph and Julie (siblings) and Selena, are among the grant recipients who have been assisted not only financially, but most importantly socially, and are on their way to making their mark on society. Recognising their passion for STEM, Western Chances, through the Toyota Community Trust program provided scholarships to enable them to undertake their studies and have continued to maintain that support throughout their educational journey.

    Joseph and Julie are Syrian siblings who received STEM study scholarships, enabling them to pursue undergrad degrees. Joseph is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science/ Master of Engineering (Mechatronics) at the University of Melbourne, whereas Julie is in her fourth year of the five-years double degree of Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours)/ Master of Pharmacy at Monash University.

    In addition to pursuing their own career dreams, the scholarship program inspired the siblings to give back to the community through various volunteering activities. Their personal experience of leaving their home country and coming to a new country where they did not know anyone or the language was challenging.

    But having overcome those challenges, they now actively take part in ATLAS – a camp for refugees and immigrants aged between 12 and 17. Joseph said he and Julie liked to volunteer to help these kids settle in and feel welcome in their new community.

    “I remember how hard it was for us when we first arrived but through the support of Western Chances, we really were able to settle in quickly and that in turn, ensured we could pursue our educations so I know how important that sort of support is,” Joseph said.

    Selena, a life-long robotics enthusiast, achieved her dream of completing a Master of Mechanical Engineering degree, is continuing to use her passion to inspire more women in STEM.

    Throughout university, Selena acted as a mentor for an all-girl team to compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition. Her passion for STEM developed after seeing Formula 1 racecars up close during a school excursion, and she was inspired to try and encourage more women to enter the fields of innovation and technology.

    “It is still very much a male-dominated arena, but women can bring a very different perspective to solving problems and it’s a fascinating area to work in,” Selena said.

    “Through the Western Chances scholarship I received, I was able to pursue my dream and I am doing everything I can to help other young girls drive perceptions that studying STEM is valuable, exciting and fun, regardless of your gender,” she said.

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