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​20-year-old Zoe Saunders is a step closer to her dream of working in Disneyland after being recognised as a future industry leader in the 2016 Minister’s Student Achiever Awards in Tourism and Hospitality at Parliament House.
 
The bubbly hospitality professional said she was overwhelmed when found out she would receive the prestigious award.
 
“When I first received the email from the Minster’s department I was shocked, there was that initial disbelief. Receiving this award has given me so much more confidence in my skills and has pushed me to keep achieving more,” said Ms Saunders.
 
The Lake Macquarie local first found her path into the hospitality industry after discovering her natural talent for the work when completing vocational education and training (VET) subjects in high school.
 
“From the first moment I met the TAFE teachers at orientation and found out about what hospitality can do for you, and the opportunity to travel overseas with it, I have enjoyed every minute of it.
 
“I’m a very social person and I love the culture and the people that you are able to meet through hospitality. My big goal is to one day work for Disneyland. I’m a big kid at heart and Disneyland is one of the biggest tourism destinations in the world, so it would allow me to work in a lot of different departments and work my way up,” said Ms Saunders.
 
From the initial weeks in the TAFE classroom to the confident highly skilled professional she is now, Zoe credits her mentors and teachers for helping her to achieve what she has to date.
 
“My mentors have helped me to strive to get everything out of my training and work experience. I learned that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
 
Those achievements include being offered a full time position at Quest Newcastle the day after completing her Diploma of Hospitality with Distinction at Hunter TAFE in 2015.
 
In addition to receiving the prestigious award from the NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events, Zoe has also earned accolades including the Hunter TAFE 2016 Hospitality and Tourism Award, 2016 TAFE NSW Ambassador Prize, and a 2015 Crowne Plaza Scholarship.
 
Zoe said the award has given her a “big confidence boost” and is considering heading back to TAFE next year to complete her Advanced Diploma qualifications.

NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres congratulated 16 students on their academic achievements and acknowledged the importance of professional training to the tourism industry.
 
“These Awards celebrate the achievements of our State’s best students who represent the future of tourism and hospitality,” Mr Ayres said.
 
“Our tourism industry is all about delivering outstanding experiences every day – making sure visitors enjoy their stay, tell others and return year after year.
 
“Providing world-class service demands the dedication and commitment of the thousands of individuals employed by our tourism businesses, and it is my pleasure to honour the next generation of tourism staff and operators.”
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