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How the NRL School to Work program is changing lives

Julia Fernandes, a proud graduate of Campbelltown Performing Arts High School last year, is a living example of the success of the NRL School to Work program.

The 18-year-old was part of the Wests Tigers program for two years and in that time, she was supported by her mentor and the club's project officer Ainslie Regan.

In her high school certificate, Julia achieved an Atar of 86.75 and received a $10,000 scholarship to Sydney University for her outstanding results where she is now undertaking a double degree: Bachelor of Law & Bachelor of Arts majoring in Gender Studies.

When Julia started as an active participant of the program she said was unsure of her aspirations and was unaware of the many diverse opportunities that were available to her. She shows great appreciation for the support from her mentor Ainslie who guided her throughout her final two years of high school and beyond.

"The program was very important and supportive throughout my final schooling years, not just in the services they provided but through my project officer Ainslie, who was great emotional support or me as well," Julia said.

"I really had no clue what I was going to do after school and from talking to the active support people at my school and the program it really opened my eyes to the different avenues I could go down.

"Ainslie was extremely supportive and whatever direction I wanted to take, she showed me all the different ways I was able to do it. That’s something I really appreciated about the program - the staff's willingness to want to see you succeed."

As well as excelling in her studies at school, Julia is a talented singer and through the program she was given the opportunity to perform in front of 15,000 people last year at the Tigers' clash with the Raiders at Leichhardt Oval. It was "a very proud moment", says Regan.

"It was an excellent experience to watch, from waiting in the sheds trying to help Julia calm her nerves before the performance, to standing on the sidelines with Julia's mum watching her sing," she said.

"Getting to see the pride and excitement that we were able to make possible by helping to facilitate the experience.

"Having Julia come off the field in awe about what she had just achieved by getting up in front of that many people was a very proud moment for me."

The NRL School to Work program is supported by the Federal government to continue to close the gap for Indigenous communities and gives students exposure to work experience, mentoring and leadership opportunities that ensure they are able to successfully finish school and transition into further education, training or employment.  

Regan said the program used the positive profile of rugby league to support and encourage indigenous students to explore their options after school and be the link between students and various organisations.

"The reach that the NRL has is massive for our kids as it gives them more exposure and opportunities."

For more information on the NRL’s Indigenous programs and initiatives, including the game’s Reconciliation Action Plan, click here.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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