Young Kempsey locals shined at the annual Macleay Valley Business Awards, held at the Slim Dusty Centre on Saturday (June 18), as the message of growth and resilience resonated throughout the night.
Kinne Ring, who works as a centre manager at Country Universities Centre (CUC) Macleay Valley, won the Outstanding Young Business Leader award for her contribution to the success of the university.
Ms Ring was employed as a centre manager by CUC in 2020.
"I was brought on to pretty much dig my knuckles into running the centre and to make sure it was a success," she said. "At the time I was only 25, so it was a massive undertaking for a 25-year-old."
"Our expected numbers for our first year was 45 students and our actual numbers for our first year was over 200, so it just exceeded all our expectations."
Ms Ring said she is very proud to have received the award and hopes it inspires other young people to bring positive change in the community.
"It means everything," she said. "Even if I hadn't have won, I would still keep doing what I am doing, but it does mean a lot to me to have received this award.
"I am so proud to see that my achievements are recognised, and it might also mean that another young person might also be recognised for what they do."
Ms Ring said it's a really humbling experience to help people on their journey to a higher education and she sees herself as a mentor to those students.
"I think I see myself as someone who is always available for people who need to have a chat about their problems, whether it's uni related or personal," she said.
"I think that is the way I try to approach business too, is that I think of someone as a whole person, they're not just a person studying, but they have everything attached to them as well.
"That's also the ethos that I take into my job as a centre manager... I don't just do what I do when I'm at work; I volunteer at soccer, I volunteer at the chamber, I volunteer at the Business Women's Network.
"It's not just what you do when you're at work, it's what you do in your spare time as well. You just try to do what you can to make the community thrive... and I don't volunteer to win an award, I do it because I do genuinely care that our community has things to do and has things to be proud of."
Ms Ring said it's important in communities like Kempsey for young people to be heard and seen and for them to have people to rely on in the community.
"Last week we had a community consultation about how we can help young people aspire to higher education and the most common theme was role models and mentors," she said.
"I know for myself that if I ever have an issue I just want to talk to someone about it, it doesn't matter if that issue is big or small. In communities like Kempsey, it is so important that young people have people to rely on.
"When you are a young person, most often you are just looking for someone to give you an opportunity or a chance to prove yourself, because you don't often have the experience, but you have the drive.
"My message to others is just to give young people an opportunity to shine because we have a lot to offer. The young people in this valley are ready to hear from the community, they are ready to be inspired and they're ready to be given an opportunity."
Young Kempsey local Beau Henry, who won the Outstanding Employee award for his work at Key Employment as a disability support worker, said he was given the opportunity to turn his life around after making some mistakes in the past.
"When I was younger I made a lot of mistakes and I ended up incarcerated," he said. "So, when I got out I wanted to help others.
"Then I met my partner and she helped me get involved in Key Employment. With all the support around me, I ended up volunteering at Key Employment for a year and then they offered me a full time job."
Mr Henry said he is grateful to have been given the opportunity to work at Key Employment.
"For me... helping others helps me become a better man," he said. "They've given me that many opportunities to progress my skills and become a better person, and I want to keep repaying the favour."
Mr Henry said he was honoured to have won the award and he hopes it inspires other young people like him in the community.
"I hope that by receiving this award I can inspire young people who have gone down the wrong path... that things can change and we can change, " he said. "All they need is a bit of support and they can change their life around."
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