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New Zealand’s GE Star

Katie Williamson

A passing comment by her mum’s coworker turned out to be a boon for young Katrina Williamson, about to finish high school in New Zealand and hoping to study law at the country’s prestigious Victoria University in Wellington. Linda Williamson is a laboratory quality-control technician with GE Healthcare in Tauranga, and a colleague gave her the tip about the GE Star Awards. “After that, I kept an eye out for the emails about them,” says Linda, “but Katrina dealt with all of the application communication, which was quite a process!”

The awards are scholarships, administered through GE Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm, for the children of GE employees around the world, aimed at giving final-year high school students a financial leg-up as they embark on university or vocational college courses. There were more than 900 applicants for the 2018 GE Star Awards, with 242 scholarships awarded to children of GE employees across 33 countries. The award is a one-off payment of $US3,000 for those entering the first year of a four-year degree and $US1,000 for two-year courses and recipients can use the money towards tuition, accommodation or anything associated with their course. The independent Institute of International Education (IIE) administers the competition, and students need to show evidence of both their academic prowess and extracurricular activities, such as sport and community service, as well as references.

Linda Williamson

Linda Williamson, GE Healthcare laboratory quality-control technician in Tauranga, NZ, learned about GE’s STAR Award program from a colleague.

Katrina could tick off the academic requirements with ease, and stacked on top of that nine years of scouting, as well as playing hockey, squash and violin, starring in the school play and debating.  “And her high school form teacher, who’d known Katrina through all five years of college, wrote a very glowing reference,” says a justly proud Linda.

The GE Star Award application went in not long after Katrina’s final exams, which came in with the desired result. “I’m studying law, psychology and criminology,” says Katrina, who explains that getting into first year is not such a high bar in New Zealand, “but I think only about 30% get into the second year of law.” She’s humble about the scholarship. “It was an extensive application!” she says with a laugh. “I kind of wrote down everything I’ve ever done, and then had to do an essay — I guess it all helped.”

Katrina and Linda Williamson on a caving and abseiling weekend in Waitomo, NZ.

Katrina is only 18 and moved down to Wellington — her first time living away from home — to start her degree in March. “My life is incredibly different now, and this year has gone incredibly fast — it’s crazy to think about how much we’ve already learned.”

The GE scholarship timeline aligns with the US school year, so Katrina was already in her first university holidays when she heard from the GE Foundation. “I got an email and it was such great news — my accommodation fees cost more than my uni course fees … about $14,500, and student loans will only cover about $7,500 of that.” She will use the scholarship money — which was worth $NZ4266 by the time it landed in the Land of the Long White Cloud — towards her accommodation in Victoria University’s halls of residence. It will give her a little financial breathing space, though she is looking for a job.

The conjoint degree — a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts — will take five years. Katrina’s open to where that powerpack of education might lead, but she’s hoping to combine her law and psychology skills. “We’re really, really grateful for the GE Star Award, it’s a big help,” says Linda. Katrina echoes her mum, and gives her credit, too. “I’d really like to thank my mum and GE … I didn’t think it would be possible for me to get an international scholarship. It just goes to show these things are worth the effort.”

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