Cessnock may have the second-lowest rate of university-qualified residents in the state - but it doesn't mean a tertiary education should be viewed as unobtainable.
Uni4You - a project of the University of Newcastle's Family Action Centre - supports Cessnock residents who considering enrolling into tertiary preparation programs like Open Foundation, Newstep and Yapug.
Christina Batey accessed Uni4You in Cessnock while she completed Open Foundation in 2016, and is now studying a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics degree.
Ms Batey, 45, said she wanted to go to university after high school, but did not receive the HSC marks she needed.
She worked in administration, reception and call centre jobs, before having her three children.
It wasn't until six years ago that she realised her university dream may be a possibility, after attending a Uni4You information seminar at the Samaritans Information and Neighbourhood Centre in Cessnock.
"I thought I would give it a try. I applied and was successful in studying Open Foundation, where I studied chemistry and life science, and intermediate maths," she said.
"In high school I received about 15 percent for my HSC maths exam. Through the support of Open Foundation, I was averaging 80-90 percent for all of my exams in mathematics."
Ms Batey said the Uni4You program provided an amazing level of support while she was completing Open Foundation.
"That helped me feel secure and confident, which buoyed me to achieve more in my studies," she said.
"(Team leader) Michele Oshan would send me regular emails, particularly around exam time, asking how I was going and offering her support.
"I am very fortunate that I have the support of my family and friends through my years of study, but I am all too aware of many people who don't.
"Uni4You provides the support network that they don't have."
Operating since 2013, Uni4You recently received the 2019 Australian Rural Education Award for their outreach work within Hunter communities.
The next round of weekly study preparation workshops will start in Cessnock on Wednesday, November 13 at Beyond Church (corner of Hall and Vincent Streets).
The workshops run from 10am to 12pm and refreshments and child-minding are provided.
For more information, contact Michele Oshan on 0437 251 261, or email email@example.com.