Jennifer Star (nee Purcell):
Jennifer Star (nee Purcell) founded an International Education NGO, Tara.Ed at the age of 20. Now in its fifth year, Tara.Ed reaches out to over 1500 underprivileged children in rural and remote areas of India. By focusing on teachers rather than students, Tara.Ed aims to promote sustainability in education by building star teachers to help students shine.
Jennifer's passion for India was ignited after being selected as a World Vision Youth Ambassador to India in 2004. She has since returned to India on numerous occasions; including a three month stint living and working in the slums of Jaipur and an 18 month placement in Bangalore designing and implementing values education and life-skills programs for urban street children.
Dedicated to building the Australia – India relationship, Jennifer has led four successful Tara.Ed Teacher Tours to India, in which Australian Pre-Service teachers and education professionals had the opportunity to participate in a cross-cultural skills exchange with their Indian counterparts. The program has also connected over 2000 Australian and Indian school children, promoting tolerance and understanding of cultural differences.
Jennifer's determination spills over into other areas in her life. Alongside her development work, Jennifer is an elite athlete in the sport of Judo and has represented Australia. Her determination allowed her to win a bronze medal in the 2005 Youth Olympics with a broken leg, and she ranked 9th in her division in the World University Championships in 2009.
As a result of her achievements, Jennifer was, in 2007, selected as one of only 75 Goldman Sachs Global Leaders worldwide. She is also the recipient of an Order of Australia Commendation Medallion for service to the global and local community as well as being named a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow and the NSW Young Australian of the Year for 2012.
Now 25 years old, Jennifer is undertaking a research dissertation at Oxford University. Focusing her research on quality teaching in rural India, Jennifer hopes to contribute to the development of sustainable education systems in the developing world.
Jennifer received the Oxford University Vice Chancellor's Civic Award back in June for her work in India. This recognition of her work being awarded at a ceremony which also saw an Honorary Doctorate presented to Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma.
An accomplished keynote speaker at education forums, leadership and youth programmes , Jennifer has her audiences enthralled with her vision of education as a tool to change the world, her special insights into her own personal journey of setting up an NGO – with it's challenges and triumphs and how it is possible to make things happen.
The inspiration for Tara.Ed came in 2007, at the end of a three month volunteer teaching trip to India. Twenty year old Jennifer Purcell was walking over a bridge spanning an open sewerage channel, when she saw a child wading through the raw sewerage, picking up recyclables to sell for survival.
It was a picture synonymous with India.
Nevertheless, Jennifer had to take a second look because she realised that this child was called Arthie, she was eight years old and in her year 2 class. This picture demonstrated the power of education. As her teacher, Jennifer held Arthie's future in her hands.
Tara.Ed is a non-denominational organisation that has three main focuses; the creation of cross cultural links between Australian and Indian schools, hands on training programs for Indian and Australian teachers through a teacher tour and skills exchange and the provision of resources for rural schools to enhance the education project. Unlike other initiatives, Tara.Ed targets teachers rather than students in order to provide quality education.
Through productive pedagogy, skills exchange and material resourcing, Tara.Ed aims to increase the quality and value of education in rural communities, thus addressing a major obstacle to primary completion. Furthermore, collaboration with Indian teachers and practical experience in a foreign education system will increase the skills of Australian teachers and student teachers resulting in benefits for both countries.
Young Australian of the Year – NSW 2012.
Oxford University Vice Chancellor's Civic Award 2012