EIGHT Wimmera students are among the country's most exceptional vocational students.
Dimboola teen Ashlee Crowhurst, St Arnaud's Nicholas Baldwin and Jordan Hamilton, Horsham's Ashley Hallam, Birchip's Brenten Delaney and Sophie Noonan, Charlton's Ebonny Fitzgerald and Donald's Angie Clark were among more than 70 Victorian recipients of the 2012 Australian Vocational Student Prize.
Miss Crowhurst, 18, said she received a call from her father on Monday to tell her she had a surprise in the mail.
"I just thought it was a bill and he was pulling my leg," she said.
But she arrived home to find the Australian Vocational Student Prize for 2012.
"I got a letter from the Minister for Education and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, congratulating me on winning," Miss Crowhurst said.
She said it was accompanied by a certificate and a $2000 cheque.
"I was very surprised," she said.
The award is for secondary school students completing vocational training, especially during their final years of studies.
Miss Crowhurst said she was just finishing year 12 VCAL studies at Dimboola Memorial Secondary College last year when her teacher John Nichols advised her to enter.
She was working towards her Certificate III in Beauty Services and doing a school-based apprenticeship at Horsham salon Luxe Beautie, formerly Sam's Beauty Bar.
Miss Crowhurst said she had since taken on a full-time position at the salon, while she completed her studies with the University of Ballarat.
"I will finish my schooling at the end of October," she said.
She visited Dimboola Memorial Secondary College on Monday to share the news.
"Mr Nichols was away, but I showed the principal and all the other teachers," Miss Crowhurst said.
"They were all really excited."
Miss Crowhurst was crowned the University of Ballarat western campuses' most outstanding beauty student in 2012.
Hindmarsh Shire Council also recognised her dedication to her studies last year.
"If you knuckle down at something you want to do, rewards will come," Miss Crowhurst said.
Horsham College principal Frank Spiel praised student Ashley Hallam for his achievements.
"He is an excellent student, noted for his exceptional attention to detail and top employability skills," Mr Spiel said.
"To date, he's earned a Certificate II Engineering and a Certificate III Metal Fabrication.
He said Mr Hallam had been offered a full-time apprenticeship.