Indigenous students find future pathway with help of NRL's School to Work program

Indigenous student Linae Williams is aiming to become a paediatric nurse. Source: SBS

Completing year 12 during a pandemic has not been easy but with the help of a mentorship program, Indigenous student Linae Williams says she is one step closer to achieving her dream.

Linae Williams is already a leader at St Mary's High School in Sydney's west. Sporting and academic awards have all come the 17-year-old's way regularly.

But even high achievers sometimes need a helping hand, especially during a pandemic.

Ms Williams said she has been grateful for the mentorship provided through the NRL's School to Work scheme.

"It's just a difficult time for us and the thing is they are so understanding. During the HSC, the School to Work scheme has given us some space but they're still there to support us from afar," she explains.

The program has a 90 per cent success rate in helping Indigenous youth achieve their goals in further education and work.

Two other students at Ms Williams' school are also enrolled in the program.

"Once we've found an aspiration for a young person, it is about identifying the number of pathways that are out there for them," said program manager Shaun Humphries.

Over 200 schools and 11 NRL clubs participate in the scheme, which the federal government has confirmed will be back for another three years.

The participating students work with a dedicated project officer to build career development plans.

Shaun Humphries and Linae Williams.
Shaun Humphries and Linae Williams.
John Baldock/SBS

Ms Williams' already busy schedule means she has to take the initiative and work out a time she can meet with Shaun Humphries.

"I'm always training, I'm always studying, I'm always at school. But what I like about him is he's so accessible. You know you've got the numbers, you've got the emails and also you make a timetable for it."

The scheme needs participants who are self-motivated.

"There are a lot of programs that are out there that work with disengaged indigenous students. Our program is looking to support those engaged students that want to improve themselves," said Mr Humphries.

They are given practical advice and help with applications for university and work-related training. For those that are looking to connect with their Indigenous culture, that can be catered for too.

Ms Williams' father was Indigenous and although he no longer lives at home, she likes the cultural connections she has made through the program.

"You know being with the mob, being with everyone, being with my brothers and sisters ... they help me have that connection that I don't have at home."

Ms Williams' dream is to become a paediatric nurse, after she was inspired by the work of the Starlight Foundation.

With Humphries' help, she has already received three offers from universities dependent on her HSC results.

"I'm so worried about everything but I'm thanking God for early entry, thanking God for this program because honestly I'd be so lost without it."

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