Jasper Zeven battled mental illness for much of his life and struggled with finding stable employment. Now empowered with a Diploma of Community Services, the 30-year-old has turned his life around and is helping others with their mental health recovery journey.
Currently a peer support worker at Neami National, Mr Zeven was also named Kangan Institute’s Community Services Gold Medallion winner and overall 2021 Student of Year.
But behind the titles and accolades, Mr Zeven’s journey was one initially defined by hardship and challenges.
“I’m a member of the LGBTQI community and I’ve undergone gender transition, which was quite a battle for myself facing different stigmas and hardships,” he said.
“I’ve challenged and battled through mental illness growing up, having relapsed and struggled through various points in my life.
“Having lived in over 30 houses in my lifetime so far and 10 different schools growing up has been quite a challenge within itself.”
For nearly a decade, Mr Zeven struggled with finding stable and long term employment. Then he heard about the Free TAFE initiative at Kangan Institute, which finally sparked a turning point.
“I heard of the Free TAFE course initiative and saw that Kangan Institute was offering the Diploma of Community Services,” he said.
“Studying a Diploma of Community Services would help to give me hope and purpose in life, and to make a difference and improve the life of others.”
Life as a student at Kangan Institute was in itself healing.
“The teachers have been fantastic, insightful and supportive. Within the class we developed our own sense of community which made each day in class bright and positive,” said Mr Zeven, who graduated early 2021.
“My studies have allowed me to self-reflect, to see my potential and see the differences I can make.”
These days Mr Zeven uses his skills and experience to help others in their mental health recovery journey.
“Kangan has taught me so much about the professional field, what to expect and how to embrace it, alongside so many personal life skills I utilise in my daily life,” he shared.
“The best part of my work is meeting new people, understanding their unique individual narratives, sharing insight and making positive change and difference in people's lives.”
Kangan Institute’s community services programs prepare students for jobs in a wide range of community support, welfare and development roles. Community services teacher Gabe Hodson said Mr Zeven has the potential to make a positive difference in the sector.
“Jasper is somebody you would be very relieved and happy to have working with and supporting a loved one to meet life’s challenges,” said Ms Hodson.
“It was a great pleasure to be Jasper’s teacher and it is wonderful to see how Jasper has grown in confidence and strength, allowing him to bring his empathy, kindness and intelligence to his professional practice in the community sector.”
Delivered at Broadmeadows campus, the Diploma of Community Services (CHC52015) is a Free TAFE course at Kangan Institute.