School to Work graduation a hit
Kayla Ross is one of 750 students across Australia that has benefited from the NRL's School to Work program since 2012.
A proud Indigenous woman, Ross was born in Darwin before moving to Canberra with her parents and was invited through the Raiders to take part in the program in 2017.
A remarkable 99 per cent of Indigenous students who have graduated from the program in the last 12 months have immediately moved into employment – a statistic that the NRL hopes to maintain.
In October 2016 the code was named 'Sports Governing Body of the Year' and recently received a further funding boost to continue the program until at least 2021.
"They really pushed the program for what it is and what it could do to help me go further in my career straight out of school," Kayla told NRL.com.
"I had a tough time leaving school to find work and was unsuccessful for most of the jobs I applied for and most of that came down to experience, which is what a lot of young people struggle with.
"We looked at how to look at these rejections as a positive and work my credentials up through the program and I've now landed a new job."
Kayla now works for the National Aboriginal Community Control Health Organisation (NACCHO) and hopes to further develop her credentials and give back to her culture.
"It's a very interesting company that looks at health in the Indigenous rural communities," she said.
"We have lots of programs that focuses on mental health and helping young children realise there is opportunity for them when they're older.
"I enjoy working with vulnerable people and being able to help others that are less fortunate."
While Ross stopped short of saying she watched rugby league on a consistent basis, she agreed that sport plays a huge part in the indigenous community.
Over 12 per cent of NRL players in the Telstra Premiership have an Indigenous or Torres Straight Islander background and that number is on the rise.
"Growing up I was always involved in sport and was always in advanced classes for physical education," Kayla said.
"It helped me express myself more and not just be 'that Indigenous girl' to classmates. I'm very proud of my heritage and never shy away from telling people I'm Aboriginal.
"The Aboriginal community rely on sport and it's a great way to blend a message in with an important topic. This program focuses on Indigenous youth and unemployment – two important topics in our culture."
Kayla travelled to Sydney earlier in the week to attend the graduation lunch and receive her certificate of achievement from NRL CEO Todd Greenberg.
Over 60 students were in attendance for the event which was hosted by Fox Sports presenter Hannah Hollis.
"I had a great time, there were so many important people and it was great to see students recognised for all their hard work," she said.
"Personally the program has helped me come out of my shell and I've got a lot more confident as a person.
"I attended a game in Canberra earlier in the year and was interviewed on the field and probably couldn't have done that before the program, I would have got nervous and said no."