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Darryl McDonough has been named Alumnus of the Year as well as the Faculty of Law Outstanding Alumni Award Winner.
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How would you feel if your best friend in your twilight years was a robot? It’s one of the many thought-provoking questions being posed at QUT’s Robotronica event on Sunday.
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As a child, QUT Learning Potential Fund recipient Ezekiel never could have imagined he would one day graduate from an Engineering degree.
In fact for a young Ezekiel, even the idea of a life of safety and stability was far-fetched, having spent much of his childhood living in a refugee camp after a civil war erupted in his homeland of Burundi, Africa.
“One morning, I was playing outside with our neighbour’s kids. I heard someone telling us to run – so we did. Behind us we could hear people screaming, moaning and crying,” said Ezekiel.
“I was only three years old at the time – but I was fleeing my native country with strangers. I didn’t even know if my mum and older brothers were still alive.”
On the journey to a refugee camp in Tanzania, Ezekiel was reunited with one of his older brothers. Ezekiel and his brother spent several years in the refugee camp, before being granted refugee status in 2009 and being relocated to Australia.
While Ezekiel’s circumstances had vastly improved, he faced a significant challenge adopting to life in Australia, including entering the school system in year 10 with very little knowledge of the English language.
Applying himself with dedication to his education, Ezekiel had aspirations of going to university after attending a Spark camp, which made his dream of becoming an engineer seem more possible than it ever had before.
“The camp opened my eyes to other possibilities – I now understood what civil engineers did on a daily basis.”
Gaining entry to his dream course at university was a big achievement for Ezekiel, but the logistical challenges of attending university on his own income and very little foundations to fall back on, proved bigger.
He applied for support from the Learning Potential Fund upon entry to university, and was thrilled to learn he would be offered a scholarship to help him make the most of his opportunity.
“Because of the scholarship, I was able to focus on my studies. I didn’t have to spend so much of my time making sure I could pay the rent,” says Ezekiel.
Ezekiel volunteering to promote LPF with fellow LPF Ambassadors Tamara and Tahlia.
In December, Ezekiel will graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering, and while he is looking forward to applying the skills he has learned, he is planning on making an important trip before he kicks off his engineering career.
“I will be travelling back to my home village in Burundi, visiting my mother and two brothers. I found out they had survived after I had been living in Australia for a year or so,” says Ezekiel.
“Going home will be very special for me – I am so proud to be able to return and share all I have been able to achieve with my family. And my career is really only just beginning.”
The Learning Potential Fund is a perpetual endowment which provides scholarships to students facing financial disadvantage.