Campus news equality awards rick cohen worthy cause

Baking cookies for mental health and elevating the needs of underrepresented ANU students

Burgmann College awarded the 2023 Equality Prize to Richard “Rick” Cohen (2014–2015) of Worthy Cause, a Melbourne-based charity that empowers disabled and disadvantaged people to secure long-term employment through its skills training and support program, and the 2023 Emerging Leader Equality Prize to Sai Campbell (2019–2022), for her tireless efforts fighting for equal representation and assistance for low-SES students at the ANU.

The Equality Prizes are awarded annually to recognise alumni and current residents who have “contributed significantly in any way to reducing inequality amongst people in any of its forms.” The prizes attract an award of $1,000 and are sponsored by indigo foundation and the BillBerry Bluestocking Fund.

2023 Equality Prize Winner: Richard "Rick" Cohen – Worthy Cause

By his own retelling, Rick Cohen (2014–2015) entered Burgmann College with significant mental health struggles that impacted his studies and daily life. After pursuing treatment and investing in his personal growth and development, Cohen completed a degree in Business and Marketing and founded his Melbourne-based charity, Worthy Cause, to help disabled and disadvantaged people struggling to secure long-term employment.

“With the help of our structured six-month employment program, [Worthy Cause participants] can receive a stable income, financial literacy training, emotional counselling, soft-skills development and on-the-job skills building in an inclusive and safe environment, through trained, qualified experts and professionals,” says Cohen. “When they’re ready, they can find other employment on their terms.

“This compassionate and tailored approach provides them with social and economic empowerment and allow them to expand on their learned skills and build confidence within an inclusive and supportive environment. Participants develop their professional skills and build confidence outside of the stress of other on-the-job training programs. “Proudly, every participant Worthy Cause has employed has gone on to achieve ‘employability’ and has maintained employment after graduating from the program.”

Worthy Cause participants bake delicious cookies, like Caramilk Birthday Cake, Red Velvet, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and Nutella-Filled Chocolate Chip, to sell and ship nationwide. We encourage fellow Burgmann alumni to support Cohen’s mission this holiday season by ordering individual or corporate gifts of delicious cookies from Worthy Cause.

2023 Emerging Leader Equality Prize Winner: Sai Campbell – Championing Support for Low-SES ANU Students

Sai Campbell (2019–2022) is a trailblazer, using her personal journey as a low socio-economic status (low-SES) student to uplift and empower others who also dream of completing tertiary education at an elite university like the ANU. Campbell was raised in Melbourne by a hardworking single mother, but was born in Thailand, where most of her family still lives. “My family back in Thailand live in a small village working on rubber farms, and the life I live in Australia is a significant contrast from that of my relatives — a fact of which I am quite cognisant,” she says.

She dreamed of attending ANU, but finances were a barrier. Through family support, part-time work, and financial aid (including Burgmann’s College Scholarship, a Burgmann Bursary, and the C.A.S. Hawker Scholarship), Campbell has excelled, winning multiple awards and distinctions, including the prestigious Tillyard Prize. Campbell has used her personal experience as a low-SES student to spotlight the needs and challenges faced by low-SES current and prospective ANU students. In her role on the Student Engagement and Success team at the ANU, she was instrumental in crafting the Low-SES Student Experience report.

“This 23,000-word report is the culmination of over a year of work which included interviewing students from low-SES backgrounds, reviewing the literature on low-SES experiences at similar institutions, and canvassing interventions to address access and inclusion,” said Amelia Zaraftis, Burgmann College’s Director of Advancement in her nomination letter for Campbell.

“The report identifies the challenges and supports for low-SES students both prior to their admission and over the course of their studies. It details a set of key interventions, as identified by the research and extensive consultation, including addressing barriers to financial aid and ongoing sense of belonging. It is a landmark document in the field of research on elite higher education in Australia.”

The report was presented to and enthusiastically endorsed by the ANU Senior Management Group. As a result, the Student Engagement and Success team has begun drafting business proposals and budgets to enact the key findings of the report across the ANU campus. Once established, these new measures are estimated to greatly increase the number of low-SES students on the ANU campus while reducing low-SES student attrition. After graduating with Honours, Sai Campbell received a Rhodes Scholarship to study emergency infectious disease response at Oxford University.

Campus news equality awards rick cohen worthy cause
Campus news equality awards sai campbell
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