Student impact stories

Madison beat cancer, now she’s battling to stay at university

“When I was 17, I was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma,” explains Madison Ritchie. “The doctor said I had three months to live. But I’m a bit of a stubborn person, so I was like ‘I’ll get back to you on that.’”

Thankfully, the treatment worked - and Madison is cancer-free today. But it did bring some lifelong consequences. She struggles with extreme fatigue, cognitive impairment and a compromised immune system caused by her aggressive treatment.

“Sadly, the treatment also left me infertile,” says Madison. It was difficult news to cope with, but it ultimately led Madison down a new path - studying to become a midwife.

Last year, Madison moved from the NSW Central Coast to begin a Nursing degree at UTS. And although she’s successfully made it to her second year, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.

Madison Ritchie is just one of hundreds of UTS students facing significant challenges to completing their degree.

“It’s very expensive living in Sydney, and I still have many doctors’ appointments,“ she says. “I’m 100% determined to finish my degree, it will just take me a little longer than other students.”

Without the financial support she receives from the Diversity Access Scholarship, Madison says there’s no way she’d be able to complete her degree.

“I was so relieved to see ‘Granted’ on my scholarship application. For me, it meant that I could buy a stethoscope for prac. That I wouldn’t have to skip a meal here and there. That I could afford to catch the train to the Central Coast to see my family and oncologist.”

Will you please help these students continue their studies during this challenging and uncertain time? 100% of your donation will go towards supporting students in need.

Grace was helped by a community lawyer to make it into university

Grace Stals learnt at a young age how legal assistance can turn someone’s life around.

Forced to leave home at 16 because of domestic violence and abuse, she was homeless and dropped out of school before finding accommodation and then working long hours to support herself.

It was only with the help of a community lawyer that she was able to source the financial assistance she needed to continue her studies and make it into university.

For me, the scholarship means the difference between merely surviving and actually living.

Grace is driven by her personal experience to use the law to improve the lives of underprivileged women and youth.

She’s is studying a Bachelor of Laws alongside a Bachelor of Social and Political Science, and sees herself eventually working to help those in society who can least afford legal assistance.

Grace is also involved with a range of vulunteer groups both inside and outside university including fEMPOWER, a NSW organisation which helps to educate school students about gendered violence and inequality.

She believes financial stress is the biggest barrier to studying both practically and in terms of mental health.

Grace says it’s one thing to make it into university but making it out with a degree is the real challenge.