Riana Cermak is the founder-director of The Education Network, a not-for-profit organisation which aims to help women to further their education at TAFE or university by giving them access to resources, mentors and information which might not otherwise be available.
The Education Network, which has recently received official charity status from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, is run by volunteers who are passionate about helping women access higher education.
The charity operates on the basis of referrals of women from domestic violence shelters, women’s legal services, women’s organisations, homeless shelters and other community networks. Its services are all free.
“I have always felt lucky to have a family who has supported me with my education,” Riana says. “I’ve also had some great mentors throughout university – but not everyone’s circumstances give them the opportunities I have had, and a lot of women with great potential miss out through lack of information and support.
“We have found that many of the women getting in touch with our service really just need the kind of information that Prospective Student Advisors can provide – things like course brochures, discussions on HECS, and course pathways.”
The Education Network has a network of mentors from a wide range of professions and backgrounds, and applicants are matched according to their specific needs.
The charity also offers CV assistance for women seeking employment, and community seminars in collaboration with other South Australian organisations.
Through her experience volunteering and working with various legal and human rights organisations, Riana discovered a gap in the current services for disadvantaged women.
She recognised that mentoring and networking are essential tools to allow women to achieve their education and career goals.
The Education Network works with the Women’s Information Service and Zahra Foundation. It’s also liaising with Flinders University’s Student Advisor Service and Inspire Mentor Program, which matches a prospective student with a volunteer mentor within a particular study area, cultural background or university pathway.
Women are also made aware of the academic, health and counselling services available to them if they study at Flinders University.
To find out more about The Education Network, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit its website at www.theeducationnetwork.org.au or find it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theeducationnetworkinc.
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