Businesses and enterprises in country towns benefit greatly when students head off to the city to fulfil their university aspirations, and upon graduation decide to return home to embark upon a chosen career.

Locals Gemma Ferguson, Tara Langfield, Samantha Coppin and Eliza Tame have done just that.

Working in the fields of journalism, teaching and graphic design, the women have brought their skills back home after graduating from Narrabri High School in 2015.

Cadet journalist at The Courier Gemma Ferguson, daughter of Lee-Anne Ferguson, has completed a Bachelor of Communication (Honours) degree, a double major of both journalism and public relations, graduating from the University of Newcastle in 2021.

After enjoying a gap year working locally in Narrabri, Gemma set off for Newcastle to begin her studies.

The next four years of study and projects resulted in the distinction of receiving a University of Newcastle Faculty Medal for honours project results, to be awarded to Gemma later this year.

The medal is a Class 1 Honours mark which is the equivalent to a high distinction average and the highest grade possible for university projects undertaken during the honours course.

“The project was focused on specialty journalism, exploring the freelance journalism approach for digitally produced social news outlets,” Gemma explained.

“The theoretical framework for the project was Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of creativity, which stipulates that creative action, for example writing a news article, is the combination of the field (the experts in the industry), the domain (the rules of the industry) and the individual (the writer) all interacting to produce an end result”.

After researching this medium, Gemma wrote as a freelancer for online publications, with articles published online by Girlfriend magazine and Syrup.

On reporting her findings, which aligned with Csikszentmihalyi’s theory, Gemma proved that creative action is possible when the writer consults the field and domain knowledge.

Whilst living in Newcastle, Gemma also worked at a digital marketing company and volunteered for a radio station and news outlets.

Gemma received two scholarships relating to her degree in her third year of study.

She brought this knowledge with her when she moved home earlier this year to start work as a cadet journalist for The Courier.

“My experience from my years in Newcastle has definitely helped me settle into my role back home,” she said.

“I’m able to use my digital marketing experience to help with The Courier’s online presence, and the skills I gained while working as a volunteer journalist for both radio and print are coming in handy as I write for the newspaper.

“I’m enjoying being back on my home turf and feel my background in Narrabri has given me a head start in my first post-graduation full-time job – I like having a sense of familiarity with the area and feel this understanding makes me a better journalist.

“Plus I have a wonderful, supportive team who are always happy to answer my questions and provide guidance whenever I need it.”

Eliza Tame, daughter of Allan and Marion Tame, pursued her undergraduate in Visual Art and Design at University of Wollongong, finishing last year.

She has moved back to Narrabri and is undertaking freelance graphic design work and further online study in User Experience Design.

Primary school teacher Tara Langfield, daughter of David and Heather Langfield, undertook a Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood and Primary) (Honours) at the University of Newcastle.

She is currently completing her final year of studies in Narrabri through the Country Universities Centre.

Tara’s aspirations are to work as a classroom teacher in a primary school.

She’s just finished her final primary placement, bringing her one step closer to her dream.

Tara found the placement to be the most fulfilling and rewarding experience and looks forward to undertaking a career in this industry.

“Watching children struggle with a concept, to work at and succeed in it, is the most rewarding thing,” she said.

Tara also noted that literacy is her favourite subject, after having studied advanced English in her high school years.

“It’s by far my favourite subject to teach, because it lays the foundations for all other subjects”.

After graduating from Narrabri High School in 2015, Samantha Coppin, daughter of Rhonda Haire, was accepted at the University of Canberra on a Schools Recommendation Scheme.

Samantha completed a three-year degree which awarded her a Bachelor of Writing.

“During this degree I was taught screenwriting, film production, writing creative nonfiction, story writing and poetry.

“I found a love for writing poetry and found a writing voice through connecting with my own personal story.

“In 2018, I was a part of a study abroad program that took me to both New York and Boston.

“During this program, I studied imagist poetry and prose around breathtaking spots such as the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Brooklyn, Washington Square Park, subway stations, Central Park, Harvard University and many more.

“In my writing I focused on showing a reader a story rather than simply just telling it and got to experience stand up poetry at niche poetry slam venues.

“In 2018, I was fortunate enough to have my debut poem published, titled An Chéim Dheireanach.”

In 2019, Samantha began a master’s degree in secondary teaching after discovering a love for sharing an interest in English and literature with others.

“During this degree I was taught about student psychology and wellbeing and discovered an interest in understanding the rural/urban divide and how to counteract the effects it has on students, including imposter syndrome and outmigration.

“For my final research paper, I composed an article on the wellbeing of teachers and students in rural areas focusing on the town of Narrabri, which was received by my professors with praise.”

Fortunately for Narrabri, these degrees have allowed Samantha to achieve her career goals of coming home and sharing her knowledge and understanding with the local community, with a permanent position teaching English at Narrabri High School.

“I feel very fortunate that my career and personal goals were able to align.

“The last eight months have been a whirlwind that I wouldn’t trade for anything, but I am continually wanting to grow, learn and achieve.

“Careers wise I am taking every day with an open mind, lucky to learn from some incredible people and teachers even in these challenging times of teacher shortages and COVID lockdowns.

“Even so, my goals as a teacher are to strengthen my ability to educate and inspire students in the subject of English, but to also provide students with co-curricular horse related activities (such as horse education career programs run in sport and attending horse sports days).”

Samantha is very appreciative of the Auscott scholarship awarded to her in 2015, which allowed her to pursue tertiary education.

“Upon completing my studies at Narrabri High School, I was lucky enough to be awarded this scholarship from Auscott.

“Receiving the local support allowed me to focus on my studies and obtain as much information and experience as I could, that now allows me to bring these skills into my daily teaching practice.

“When going for this scholarship, I spoke about wanting to come home and give back to my local community and I’m glad that I was able to do that and be true to my word”.

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