Rhianna achieves the seemingly impossible

16 July 2018

The  D Brownbill Family Scholarship enabled Rhianna Hampton-de Vries to be the first person on her mother's side to come to University. The following is a speech she gave at the ANU College of Business & Economics prizes and scholarship event earlier this year.

"Hi, my name's Rhianna Hampton-de Vries and I am the recipient of this year's D Brownbill Family Scholarship.

I was born and raised in a small town called Lithgow which, if you've not heard of it, is located right at the base of the Blue Mountains. I'm currently undertaking my first year of a commerce and science double degree, which I absolutely love.

My journey to ANU was honestly quite the climb.

Firstly, Lithgow High School was not the perfect academic environment. I would say that about 20% of the cohort cared about their results while the rest were uncontrollably rowdy. However, I was lucky enough to have some amazing teachers who invested an enormous amount of time and effort into helping the ambitious students to succeed.

Outside of school I had also not been dealt the greatest hand of cards in regards to my circumstances. My mother has had substance issues for as long as I can remember and I lost my father in 2015.

For majority of my life, I lived with my mother and 4 siblings where everything was far from luxury. As soon as I reached the legal employment age, I began working at KFC part-time in order to help provide for myself and my siblings. I used to work up to 30 hours a week of late nights and weekends. This, unfortunately, made my academic performance suffer.

Over time, home life became increasingly tougher and at the end of 2015 I moved in with my foster family who have provided the most loving home I have ever experienced. My foster mum, Kym, is someone who has always inspired me. She is one of the most selfless and empathetic people I have ever met. I could write a whole speech solely about her.

My new home allowed me to focus a much larger amount of energy into my studies. This resulted in a great boost in marks which in turn, broadened my horizons.

Before living with Kym, I honestly had never considered university as an option. Then suddenly, I was considering where to apply.

I visited an an ANU open day in 2016 and was absolutely in love. As someone who has a passion for both commerce and science, the flexible double degree was absolutely perfect. There was nothing offered by any other university that even came close in my eyes.

From that day on, ANU was set as my first preference.

However not many students at Lithgow High School achieve an ATAR above even 70, so to me, coming here seemed like the unattainable dream.

Outside of the academic results, there were other barriers, or sacrifices, to be made in order to attend ANU.

First of all, I would have to move away from all of my friends and family in order to study in Canberra. Not a single person from my grade at school even applied for ANU.

Secondly, I would be leaving behind my siblings who previously lived just down the road.

However, my other option was to study a degree I wouldn't be 100% passionate about at a highly less reputable university.

After a long time of considering the options, I decided the move would be worth it. It's easy to visit my friends and family at home during the breaks and I've already made plenty of new ones here in Canberra.

Also, no one on my mother's side of the family has ever even attended a university. I decided to show my brothers and sister that anything is possible and that the circumstances you're born into cannot hold you back any more than you allow them to.

Receiving the D Brownbill scholarship has been an invaluable aid in regards to financial pressure. I am absolutely honoured to have received the award and to be attending the Australian National University in general.

Scholarships like this really help make attending University an achievable goal and financially possible.

I would like to say an enormous thank you to Mr Brownbill and everyone who has helped me get to where I am today."

Page owner: Philanthropy