We sat down with the 2018 Bernie Singleton Scholarship recipient, Nick Saveka, to learn a little more about this inspirational Torres Strait Islander student.
Unlike most of his university colleagues, Nick Saveka didn’t grow up wanting to be a dentist. His dream was to a professional athlete and football player. Little did he know that his love of sport would ultimately lead him to a career as a dentist.
How does a kid who left home at 15 end up at the leading Dentistry School in Australia?
“Mum and I had a tough time communicating when I was younger. When I was 15, I moved out of home. I lived with a mate from school and his family. They were really good to me and made sure that I stayed at school.” Nick said.
After finishing high school, Nick worked in retail for a few years. Nick landed a coveted job in the mining sector, working 12 hour days, for weeks at a time.
“I’ve always had drive and ambition. When I was young, it was all about becoming a professional football player, and later it was about getting a good job. I didn’t even think about studying.” Nick added.
It was on one of his well-earned weeks off from his mining job that a personal trainer at the PCYC in Cairns encouraged him to pursue his love of sport and a career as a Personal Trainer. Little did Nick know that this decision would be a turning point in his life.
After successfully completing his Certificate III and IV in Health and Fitness, he had caught the study bug; he was accepted to James Cook University to study Sports Science. Nick settled into study pretty well and was a tutor to his fellow students in maths. His hard work and dedication did not go unnoticed by the staff and counsellors at James Cook University, who encouraged Nick to pursue an application to study dentistry.
James Cook University School of Dentistry is a state of the art facility located in at the Cairns Campus. Nick was accepted to a Bachelor of Dental Surgery in 2014; he will graduate in 2019. Nick has now been approached by the leaders at JCU to present at career expos and high school presentations to encourage other Indigenous students to pursue a career in Dentistry with James Cook University.
“I’m not your average dental student. I’ve had a tough upbringing; I left home young, I had some hard jobs and really didn’t see a career in health as my future. If I can help young people to dream about something for their future, that would be great.” Nick said.
Nick says that university study has taught him so much more than how to be a Dentist. “It’s taught me how to think differently, how to solve problems, and it’s brought me out of my shell.”
We asked Nick what winning the Bernie Singleton Scholarship meant to him, and after a moments silence, he said that winning the scholarship is an honour and if he can encourage his community to step outside their comfort zone anything is possible.