Passionate is a word that accurately describes Katie Breckenridge.
The young zookeeper, who studies agriculture at Tocal College, has refused to let anything stop her from pursuing a career with animals.
It’s the reason why Ms Breckenridge was awarded a $1000 scholarship for women in non-traditional or male-dominated trades by the Women’s Network Hunter last week.
In 2016, the 25-year-old – who has cystic fibrosis – received a life-changing lung transplant.
And by the next year, Ms Breckenridge had started studying agriculture at Tocal College. In her scholarship submission, she talked about her passion for agriculture and sustainability, and her hopes to become a vet nurse.
While working at Taronga Zoo, Ms Breckenridge decided she wanted to expand her knowledge.
“I wanted to continue studying while trying to find a paid zookeeper job, and I heard about the Tocal College course,” the agriculture student said.
“I was drawn to it because it’s very practical – you learn to ride motorcycles and all kinds of things. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
The annual scholarship aims to break down gender boundaries and provides funds for education fees such as textbooks and supplies.
Ms Breckenridge said she was humbled to receive the award, and felt lucky to have strong support in her family, friends and teachers.
“It’s really humbling … I didn’t expect to win. I want to say how great Tocal College has been,” she said. “The teachers and experience has been amazing. I would recommend it to anyone.”
When it comes to encouraging other women thinking about pursuing a career in non-traditional or male dominated trades, Ms Breckenridge said they should “ignore the stereotypes”.
“Objectively, there is no reason why women can’t do anything men can do. It’s all culture that makes us believe that – just go for it,” she said.
“We are breaking away more and more from the traditional norms and expectations – so stuff them.”
Network president Nada Vujat said the young zookeeper was a “stand-out”.
“She’s been through a lot of adversity in her life but she hasn’t allowed it to stand in her way at all,” Ms Vujat said.
“She is very passionate about animals … The Women’s Network is already very proud of her.”