Journey of a Pacifica Girl: Kelly's Story

How mentors are inspiring a generation of change

Like most education professionals, the dedicated staff at Rooty Hill High School want only the best outcomes for their students. But despite their efforts, many students can find the transition from school to work or further study extremely difficult, especially given the high rates of unemployment and disadvantage experienced in the local community. Almost half (46%) of Rooty Hill students are in the bottom quartile of socio-educational advantage, and just over half (51%) are living in households where English is spoken as a second language.

Recognising the challenges extend beyond the classroom, Rooty Hill High School joined the Schoolyard Collaboration, an initiative that’s taking a “whole of school” approach to employment pathways for students from vulnerable communities. Thanks to funding support from the Citi Foundation, United Way and Social Ventures Australia have been able to reach over 500 students across four schools in Greater Western Sydney – including Rooty Hill – to improve their employability skills and confidence as well as deepen engagement and collaboration between schools, employers and service providers.

They (the mentors) were really good to talk to. We had some fun, but they were so supportive…

Kelly is one of the hundreds of Rooty Hill High School students who’s been able take part in these transition to work initiatives. While Kelly had previously struggled to maintain a high attendance rating and stay engaged in school, the skills and exposure to Volunteer Mentors she gained as part of the initiative has given her the confidence and drive to study for a career in something she is passionate about: business a

“I definitely feel more connected with the opportunities available to me and have learnt how to set goals and identify work opportunities. I’ve also learnt about the sort of skills I am going to need when I go for an interview, like how to talk about my strengths and skills that are transferrable to an employer.  It’s been really good for helping me gain self-confidence, the skills I need, and to feel supported in my decisions. It was good to have different things thrown at me to consider rather than to just get any job.”

Having experienced mentors available to talk to on a regular basis has been hugely beneficial for students like Kelly, who might not otherwise have adult role models engaged in work who can provide support and career guidance. These Volunteer Mentors take part in structured workshops such as Mock Interviews, but also complete ongoing sessions where they talk to the students about how they started on their own professional journey and inspire the students to follow their dreams, while providing practical advice and support.

“They (the mentors) were really good to talk to. We had some fun, but they were so supportive of me, I’ve never met anyone like them before, so it was quite good to have this connection.”

Last year United Way Australia engaged 552 volunteers across 40 corporate partners, including 187 Volunteer Mentors who directly supported students like Kelly. When asked how would they rate their experience, 100% of mentors said ‘excellent’, and that the experience enhanced their willingness to contribute to the company.

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