Vannita is the latest CCF student heading to Australia after winning a full scholarship to study at Trinity College in Melbourne

CCF student Som Vannita is testament to the old adage that if at first you don’t succeed, try again.

Last year, Vannita was one of the many who applied for a place on the scholarship scheme with Trinity College, University of Melbourne, a partnership which offers CCF students a chance to study in Australia. She narrowly missed out on one of the two scholarships.

While disappointed, she was determined not to give up and used the result as a spur to work even harder, vowing to go one better next time.

Her tenacity – and lots of effort – paid off when she was recently named as the recipient of the 2019 scholarship.

Vannita, 19, now has the opportunity to take a foundation year at Trinity College next year before hopefully going on to complete a bachelor’s degree at the prestigious University of Melbourne.

The delighted student had been on a final shortlist of five for only one place this time, whittled down after a rigorous selection process of tests and interviews. When her name was read out, she held her head in her hands, before tears of happiness flowed.

“After last year, I really tried to do my best,” said Vannita. “I am very thankful for being given another chance. I’m not going to forget today for a long time.”

Vannita will head to Melbourne in February. She will join fellow CCF students Yem Sovannry, 18, and Seng Hoarng, 19, who won scholarships in 2018, and Sophy Ron, the first CCF Trinity Scholar, whose remarkable journey from the garbage dump at Steung Meanchey to valedictorian made headlines around the world, and who is now studying for a degree at the University of Melbourne. All three are pictured below (1st and 2nd left and right) at Sophy’s Trinity College graduation in Melbourne in May.

Currently, Vannita attends university in Phnom Penh, and combines her studies with a job at CCF as a Leadership Assistant in the Leadership Program.

When she first started with CCF in 2010, she would finish daytime lessons at public school and head to an evening English class with us. Back then, these were held at our vocational training bakery that turned into a makeshift classroom at night.

CCF founder, Scott Neeson, still refers to her as one of the original “bakery school students”.

“15 years ago when I started out on the garbage dump, seeing this ugly mass of landfill, back then it was all about getting young people into school,” said Scott.
“Later, we realised the majority of CCF students were going to go onto university and that was so much more success than we could have imagined.”

Now, 70 percent of CCF students will go on to study at university.

“A scholarship to a prestigious university [University of Melbourne] really is the top tier,” he told the CCF students who had attended the Trinity Scholarship announcement.
“But given your background, getting into a Cambodian university is a huge achievement. You have had to work so hard to get there.”

Vannita, who now has the chance to change the course of her life forever, intends to make the most of the new overseas challenge.

“I will try my best and bring it [everything I learn] back to share with everyone here and in Cambodia,” she said.

Kate Ginn/CCF

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