Scholarship ends university drought

Cattle farmer Tim Bonner always hoped to send his son Adam to university. When a decade-long drought drove the family into financial hardship, a UQ Young Achievers scholarship provided Adam with the chance to achieve his dream of going from bush to business.

Adam spends time on the family's cattle property near Stanthorpe, Queensland.

Adam spends time on the family's cattle property near Stanthorpe, Queensland.

It’s a vivid memory that will never fade for Adam Bonner (Bachelor of Commerce /Bachelor of Business Management, ’18): the emotional phone call he received in 2011 from his father, Tim, during morning tea break at school.

After many years of financial and mental strain for his parents on their cattle farm near Stanthorpe, Queensland, Adam could be forgiven for immediately assuming his life was about to be turned upside down by whatever his father had to so urgently share with him.

And turned upside down it was.

“Adam, you’ve got the Young Achievers scholarship,” Tim said through his tears.

“You’re going to university.”

Sending their eldest child to university had seemed a distant prospect; a hurdle they were unlikely to be able to overcome.

“Every father wants to be a provider, but it got to the stage where I couldn’t do it."

The family’s farm had been suffering from the same drought that has ruined many families’ livelihoods throughout Australia, particularly in the last decade.

The financial toll on the Bonner family had been crippling.

“We were in a really bad way at that time,” Tim said.

“I felt like I might have failed my boys.

“Every father wants to be a provider, but it got to the stage where I couldn’t do it.

“We couldn’t send Adam to university, we couldn’t fund it, we couldn’t rent a house for him, we couldn’t do anything.”

Adam was a model student in high school.

He played sports at a representative level, and his ambition and work ethic was evident in his high grades and his determination to help on the farm whenever he could.

But his family’s rural isolation and lingering financial issues meant chasing his dreams of a university education remained out of reach.

“When the scholarship came through, I just thought, ‘it’s happening, my boy’s going to uni’,” Tim said.

“Receiving that scholarship meant that Adam was the first person in our family to ever go to university.”

His father’s relief was not lost on Adam.

“When the scholarship came through, I just thought, ‘it’s happening, my boy’s going to uni."

“In Dad’s voice you could really hear how deeply it had affected him,” Adam said.

“He and Mum now had the peace-of-mind that I would receive a university education.”

With his parents’ anxieties alleviated, Adam knew the onus was on him, now more than ever, to continue working towards an overall high school score that would secure his position at UQ.

Adam’s first Young Achievers camp in Year 11 provided him with clarity around study options and career pathways.

But his keenest memory of the camp was of the program mentors – current UQ students who volunteer their time to counsel participants through their final years of high school and support and motivate them through to university life.

“The mentors were so full of energy, so inspiring,” Adam said.

“I walked out of that camp feeling so empowered about my school journey and empowered to get into university.”

While he chose to play to his strengths when selecting a course, Adam credits his family’s financial history with his decision to study commerce and business management.

“My interests and strengths were in those areas,” he said.

“But with the financial struggles that my family had been through, I knew that if I could study and learn those skills, then I could also directly help my own family.”

As a resident of St John’s College at the St Lucia campus, Adam participated fully in the student experience at UQ.

In addition to his study, he worked as a student ambassador, was involved in the UQ Idea Hub, undertook an exchange program to China, and closed the loop on his Young Achievers Program (YAP) journey by becoming a program mentor.

“Having been through the program as a student and knowing how much of an impact those mentors have had on my life, I wanted to be able to give back and become a mentor of the program myself,” he said.

During his time as a mentor, Adam counselled 10 students from similar backgrounds to his own.

“It was an amazing experience to see them graduate,” he said.

“It made me feel like I had made a difference in their lives, just like my mentors had made a difference in mine.”

Adam works with his father Tim on the family’s cattle property.

Adam works with his father Tim on the family’s cattle property.

In his final year at UQ, Adam secured an internship with a ‘big four’ accounting firm, which progressed to a permanent role after his graduation.

Adam is keen to use his education and experience to help young adults who find themselves in a similar situation to his own.

“I would like to create a financial education program for young students,” he said.

“When students are coming out of high school they often don’t understand things like tax, superannuation, savings, loans and those types of things.

“I would like to implement a financial education program within schools around Australia.”

In addition to his goal of providing financial education to students, Adam is using his new-found knowledge to help improve his family’s farm.

Watch the video about Adam's story.

He has completed a business analysis on their farm and is helping to implement new strategies to improve the financial stability of the business.

“He was never destined for the farm, we knew that, and we knew he had everything he needed, personally – the intelligence and the drive – to go to university,” Tim said.

“For him to miss out would have been horrible.

“If it wasn’t for the Young Achievers Program… well, it would have been a tragedy for someone with Adam’s abilities and talents to have missed the opportunity to have pursued his dreams.”

While it’s a heartwarming portrayal for a father to share of his son, theirs is not a unique story.

There are countless talented and deserving students struggling to overcome their own barriers to education, hoping to pursue their own dreams.

YAP continues to expand each year, but only with growing and continued support from our valued donors.

To help more students like Adam achieve their university goals, visit

Young Achievers Program (YAP) participants at their residential camp at UQ St Lucia.

Young Achievers Program (YAP) participants at their residential camp at UQ St Lucia.

What is the Young Achievers Program?

The Young Achievers Program (YAP) is one of The University of Queensland’s most transformative and long-term scholarship programs, beginning when the recipient is in their senior years of high school and lasting, for most students, through the entirety of their undergraduate studies at UQ.

Students are selected in Grade 10 based on their demonstrated academic potential to succeed at university, as well as their strong sense of motivation despite financial hardship.

In Years 11 and 12, YAP participants attend residential camps held at a University college on UQ’s St Lucia campus.

These on-campus experiences are an important means of building students’ educational aspirations, establishing mentoring relationships and delivering activities that foster social, academic and personal growth.

During these senior high school years, YAP students receive financial assistance for education costs. They also receive crucial ongoing support and mentoring from current UQ students – often previous YAP participants – which can provide clarity on study options, as well as education and career pathways.

Once they have gained entry to UQ, YAP students receive tailored support services as well as significant financial assistance.

These senior YAP participants often also choose to give back to the program by becoming mentors themselves, providing the next generation of YAP students with the support they themselves have received.

Having celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018, the power of YAP can be seen in an entire generation of truly outstanding graduates – like Adam Bonner – who have benefited from this flagship scholarship program.

Join the conversation

Your comments here are governed by Facebook Terms of Service and UQ Social Media Terms of Use.