The Minerva Network is delighted to announce that Jemma Smith – one of the shooting stars of the Surf Life Saving disciplines in Australia – has been awarded the inaugural Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship.
In making a substantial commitment to women in sport and their local community, the Newcastle Knights’ generous $10,000 12-month scholarship in conjunction with the Minerva Network will enable Jemma to complete her 2021 studies at University of Newcastle while continuing to meet her training commitments.
Jemma, 22, hails from the NSW Central Coast where she started competing as a 5-year-old Nipper with Umina SLSC. She is now a 16-time Australian champion across life saving and surf events who has her eye firmly on the 2024 Paris Olympics as a sprint kayaker.
Jemma received her scholarship today from Newcastle Knights Chief Executive Officer Philip Gardner and Minerva Network Chairman Christine McLoughlin at McDonald Jones Stadium, the home of the Knights.
“This is a huge honour for me to receive the Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship, which will enable me to complete my Bachelor of Education studies at Newcastle Uni while I chase my dreams of higher honours in my sport,” a proud Jemma said.
“The support I have received from the Minerva Network has been immense and it says a lot about the quality of the Newcastle Knights as a club that they are so willing to get behind women in sport and young athletes of all disciplines in the community.”
Mr Gardner said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Minerva Network on supporting women in sport and we congratulate Jemma Smith, an outstanding local athlete, on receiving the inaugural Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship.
“Our club is committed to creating and supporting pathways for women in sport and the Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship will be offered to a deserving athlete on an annual basis.
“As an NRL club we have a strong focus on developing rugby league pathways for girls and women, but we also acknowledge the enormous efforts of all women in elite sport and therefore this scholarship is available to all sporting disciplines.
“As a result of this scholarship, Jemma will be better able to realise her educational aspirations as she continues to make her mark as an athlete with her eye on Olympics qualification.”
Minerva Network Chairman Christine McLoughlin said Jemma Smith was the third young Australian athlete to be awarded a scholarship under the Minerva Network Scholarships Program, which was launched in September 2020. Fellow Minerva Athletes, Sydney FC and Future Matildas player Jada Whyman and Australian Rowing World Championship Medallist Georgie Rowe, have also received scholarships.
“The Minerva scholarships are an investment in our future as the level of skill and discipline shown by our Minerva Athletes in competing at the highest level are precisely the traits we look for in our community leaders and in the world of business,” she said.
“We know from working with elite athletes over the past four years at the Minerva Network that they juggle training, competing and part-time work to pay the bills, along with their studies. Sadly, when the pressure is on and they need to cover some of the bills, too often those studies are sacrificed.
“The Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship will enable Jemma to compete and train while she completes her studies.”
A Minerva Network Scholarship Committee comprising several Australian business leaders recommended Jemma Smith for a scholarship on the basis that she is an outstanding Minerva Athlete who is a role model on and off the field, has a long-term career goal linked to a proposed area of study, and a clear plan to maintain her level of sporting performance along with her study commitments.
Jemma is starting her fourth year of study for a Bachelor of Education specialising in Secondary Mathematics and Physical Education, with her aim to continue post-graduate studies at University of Newcastle.
“I’m a fulltime Uni student but still training two to three times every day and travelling regularly, and the financial strain of the past few years has been massive,” said Jemma. “So I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to partner with the Newcastle Knights who do so much for the region and the community.”