From 29 April 2022, Compass Housing Services became Home In Place.

Three Newcastle sisters have established an annual Grow A Star scholarship in memory of their parents to help young people living in social housing to help realise their academic, sporting or artistic dreams.

Kerrie Smith, Robyn O’Brien and Tracey McCosker have presented their first Joan and John McCosker Scholarship to Jessica, a Newcastle Year 11 student.* It is delivered through local community housing provider, Home in Place, under its Grow a Star program.

Ms Smith had the idea for the family scholarship when attending a Grow a Star fundraising luncheon and scholarship presentation last year.

She said her parents were active members of Mayfield Church of Christ and always made time to help others. Mr McCosker died in 1995 but Mrs McCosker continued her community work almost up until her death in 2019.

“Mum and Dad would be very proud and pleased we are continuing to support people in our community who need a hand, as they did all their lives,” Ms Smith said.

“Dad was an accountant and did lots of volunteer work for groups particularly Newcastle City Mission,” she said.

“Mum was a fantastic cook and a great seamstress. She would always be mending or making clothes for people. There’d be slices, cakes, jams and pickles on the go to help a cause or because someone had tasted something she had made and wanted her to cook for them. She donated all the proceeds to church and community causes and an award to a Year 6 student at both Mayfield West and Mayfield East public schools each year.”

“The Grow a Star scholarship is a perfect fit for honouring Mum and Dad. Mum was doing her own version of a Grow a Star scholarship for years.”

Ms Smith’s sisters jumped at the opportunity to carry on their parent’s legacy. Ms Smith is a senior training advisor with ARTC. Ms McCosker is the chief executive of NSW Pathology and Ms O’Brien is office and venue manager at Macquarie Life Church.

“I was at the scholarship presentation and thought this was a great thing to do – something our parents would have done – that we could do in their name. The scholarship is a small thing for us, but we hope it can make a massive difference to a young person.”

“It is not just the money, it is about someone caring and believing in you, and backing your goals and dreams.”

Ms Smith said her meeting with Jessica was quite emotional and very rewarding. She said it was great to hear about her interests and what she wants to achieve. Jessica was nervous about the presentation, but Ms Smith was able to support her.

“The benefit is also in the giving. I would encourage others to think about contributing to a scholarship as it provides so much more than just the financial assistance.”

“Jessica has a passion for writing and wants a career in nursing or mental health. She is the same age as my daughter but, through no fault of her own, has not had the same opportunities. She now has the opportunity to do a First Aid course as this gives her some financial support for her studies.”

Grow A Star co-ordinator Shane Marshall said the sisters’ scholarship will make a big difference. He hopes to be able to offer more scholarships to social and affordable housing residents and other disadvantaged youth to help realise their academic, sporting or artistic dreams. Mr Marshall provides mentoring support to recipients to give them another adult to talk to about setting goals to reach for the stars.

“Often the cost of equipment, training or lessons, sport registration fees and extra-curricular programs prevents some kids with talent from realising their potential,” Mr Marshall said.

“We have had some amazing support from businesses but a scholarship may be something that an individual would like to do, in their name or in someone else’s name,” he said.

When Hunter based community housing provider Home in Place established Grow a Star in 2012 it was a first of its kind program in the Australian community housing sector. The program has provided hundreds of scholarships to young people, not just Home in Place tenants, in the Hunter as well as the Central Coast, Central West, Far West and South East Queensland.

To find out more about the program and scholarships visit

*Jessica’s first name is used to protect her privacy and identity. 

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