Vykee Bennett receiving her award.
Vykee Bennett receiving her award. Contributed

Study 'opens Pandora's box' for mature-age student

FOR Vykee "Pixie" Bennett, TAFE study "opened Pandora's box". She loves it, and wishes she "could go to school forever now".

After being made redundant Vykee went through a tough time and suffered anxiety which "took its toll".

When a support worker suggested study she laughed and told them they must be joking.

"I hadn't been to school for 45 years, and I'm not very smart." But they convinced her she was competent.

On her first day her support worker met her there, "I couldn't even go by myself". And although she walked into a classroom of young girls and thought, "what am I doing?", from that day she "never looked back".

Vykee, one of 1642 over-55s enrolled at North Coast TAFE Institute in 2015, said, "The support of the teachers was unbelievable, incredible."

"And the dynamics of the classroom brought a lot of my personality back out, gave me confidence."

She would tell young girls who moaned about it being Monday: "You're never going to get rid of Monday. Instead, say Monday's coming, you beauty, school."

A "colourful person" who had a lot of colourful clothes she picked up in op shops, Vykee said she would coordinate a different colour every day.

"They'd ask me what colour I was going to wear tomorrow. I've got all these great student friends now."

But the icing on the cake was an invitation to a presentation. "I got an award for excellence and a certificate, and a trophy, Student of the Year for Northcoast TAFE Business Services 2016."

"Who would have ever thought someone at 60 who hadn't been to school for 45 years could accomplish that."

Vykee's message is "old people don't know how to ask for help, when we grew up it was a sign of weakness. Once I found my support system it was the most amazing thing. I couldn't have done without them.

"I never dreamt I could accomplish anything, let alone Student of the Year. I'm forever grateful to have the opportunity to learn something new, excel at it and be rewarded."

And Vykee is still having fun. "I always call it school. I say I have to pack my play lunch." And she still amazes herself. "When I grasp something new I think, how easy is this."

TAKE THE PLUNGE:

* Grab your course guide: This will outline what you'll be studying each week. It should also outline assessments and exams, so you can plan.

* Don't be afraid of the young ones: Remember, each person is considered a valid student at TAFE, regardless of age or experience. Give yourself time to get used to it all.

* Enrol in a study skills session: Been a long time since you hit the books? Check with your TAFE to see what Study Skills courses they run.

* English skills: If you don't come from a background where English is your first language or if your English skills are not up to scratch, you'll also find many TAFEs offer language courses to help you improve your written and spoken English.

* Brush up on your computer skills: Choose a course (or courses) that relate to your needs. and consider completing your computer course before your studies begin.

* Get essay or writing help: Essay writing courses can also be advantageous. Consider a more in-depth course if you're not great with essays or simply a quick refresher course if you need to go over the basics.


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