From refugee to researcher
Being named dux of Murray High School last year is one of Ram Khanal's happiest memories.
Born in a refugee camp in Eastern Nepal after his parents had to flee Bhutan, Ram only received basic schooling before arriving in Australia in 2009.
"I felt very happy when I landed in Australia but at the same time I was feeling nervous and a little bit anxious as well," Ram said.
"Settling into Albury was not easy because of the multiple challenges, but we received incredible help from local volunteers and the resettlement agency."
Ram enrolled at Murray High School and among his challenges was the need to learn a new language.
He said English as a Second Language teacher Kerrie O'Connell had put in "enormous effort to help me learn the language and settle into a new school".
Friends of Zainab scholarships
Murray High principal Geoff Mackenzie nominated Ram for a Friends of Zainab scholarship, which supports refugee students studying in NSW public high schools and universities.
Friends of Zainab scholarships were established in 2002 to help a young asylum seeker, Zainab Kaabi, to complete her schooling at Holroyd High School.
In 2009, Friends of Zainab joined the Public Education Foundation in order to expand its reach.
This year the scholarships were offered statewide for the first time and Ram was one of the 12 successful nominees.
"We nominated Ram because we see him as an extremely talented young man who will go on to do outstanding things at university and in later life," Mr McKenzie said.
"Ram's excellent HSC results gave him the opportunity to fulfil his ambition to study medical science at university. His financial situation is such that he could not realise this ambition without considerable support."
Mr Mackenzie said he also hoped Ram's success would "be a significant boost to the Bhutanese community at Murray High and further emphasise that you can be successful, no matter what your background".
Now studying a Bachelor of Medical Science at the Australian National University in Canberra, Ram aspires to be a doctor and a medical researcher.
"I also have a desire to get involved with a non-profit organisation and serve the community and help people who struggle to feel comfortable in their daily living," Ram said.
Fellow scholarship recipient Malik Anne, of Callaghan College, was chosen because of his positive attitude towards school and the progress he had made in his academic studies.
Originally from Mauritania, Malik, his mother and four siblings came to Australia from Senegal in 2008.
Like Ram, Malik also faced challenges in settling in Australia including cultural differences, racial tensions and language difficulties.
"I have a desire to go to university and study either physiotherapy or physical education teaching," Malik said.
"My motivation and desire to succeed is driven by past endured hardships and struggles.
"I want to make sure I take this opportunity [because] I know there are people out there without the same opportunities who would love to be in my place today, to go to school, have a secure and free life."
Photo: Ram Khanal with Murray High School principal Geoff Mackenzie and Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli. Photo by Robert Edwards.