Angelina Atkinson-Jans hopes to be a role model for her younger brothers and sisters after becoming the first of four older siblings to finish year 12.
The 17-year-old won South West TAFE Warrnambool's VCAL student of the year this week when she received a year 12 certificate.
Her home life had involved moving between six south-west primary and secondary schools 14 times, returning to the same schools multiple times.
At 15 she moved out of home, spent four months homeless sleeping on friends' couches, before enrolling in Warrnambool College and then TAFE.
"I love my family heaps, but home life wasn't the best for me," Angelina said.
She moved to TAFE to balance a job working 25 and 30 hours a week while studying full time.
When COVID-19 stopped her employment this year and government support increased, she instead focused more on her studies.
"I'm kind of glad I was able to just focus on my year 12 and get it done," Angelina said.
"I can honestly say if I didn't go to South West TAFE I wouldn't have finished year 12."
She said she was proud of independently putting herself through year 12, paying her own TAFE tuition, but now wanted her four younger siblings to finish school.
"I believe in them, I don't want to think they are less than what they are. I feel with the upbringing we've had it is possible," Angelina said.
She has secured work in Camperdown and Terang, but wants to return to TAFE to do further study in the future.
South West TAFE hosted a scaled-down awards ceremony due to health restrictions for students this week, recognising the students' efforts.
"We felt it was more important than ever to highlight the great achievements of our students this year," VCAL senior educator Emma McDonald said.
"It's been a challenging year for everyone but we've had high enrolments, our courses are growing and our students have achieved outstanding results. We want to celebrate all of that."
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