The chance to live and work all over Australia has driven James Sheahan Catholic High School student Emily Vardanega to become on of the top VET students in the state.
Ms Vardanega is studying a Cert II in Kitchen Operation as part of following her dream to become a chef, and last week was recognised as the student of the year at the Western NSW Training Awards.
The awards, which involved filling out plenty of forms as well as 2000 words worth of responses to questions about their VET courses and how they'd used the knowledge in either jobs or outside their courses.
Training NSW held its awards ceremony over Facebook Live due to COVID-19 restrictions, and Ms Vardaneda said she was blindsided by winning the award.
"I definitely didn't expect it at all, it was a bit of a shock," she said.
She now has the chance to be named state finalist, with interviews in Sydney or over the phone before the state student of the year is decided later this year.
However, she's got her eyes far ahead of that, having accepted a position as a trainee chef with the air force for 2021.
She'll spend time in Wagga Wagga, down in Victoria before she expects to have the chance to spend time in Townsville or Darwin.
"I'm extremely excited, I can't wait to get out of Orange - not that there's anything wrong with it," she said.
"Being a chef was always in the back of my mind and it's something I'm very passionate about."
She said "phenomenal" work placements at Racine and Groundstone Cafe had spurred her into realising her dream, and that she was shattered to leave them both.
Her schoolmate Tori Pellow was also nominated for the award despite her initial reluctance to put her name forwarded.
Ms Pellow is studying in-school hairdressing with a Certificate II in salon assistance, combining school with work at Iko Iko Hair.
She said she'd wanted to be a hairdresser since about the age of 10.
"My uncle's a hairdresser in Brisbane and one year he came down and showed us photos of a wedding he'd done, and seeing how happy the bride and flower girl and bridesmaids were made me want to do that," she said.
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