Dylen Stevenson always wanted to go to university but until he heard about the NRL School to Work program, he was unsure how he would get there.
Helping Indigenous students transition from high school to tertiary education is the chief focus of the program. Stevenson, one of their many success stories, said it had been a significant influence is steering him in the right direction after completing his HSC.
Leading into last Sunday's International Youth Day, the NRL highlighted how the program helped the likes of Stevenson and fellow Indigenous student Makala Bergan achieve their life goals.
School to Work provides young Indigenous Australians with work experience, mentoring and leadership opportunities to ensure they complete high school and transition into further education or the workforce.
Stevenson, who was part of the Wests Tigers program, is now living on campus while attending the Australian National University in Canberra. He is studying a Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry, majoring in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.
During Stevenson's university break, his School to Work Project Officer Ainslie Regan liaised with CareerTrackers, resulting in an internship with Caltex.
"To get students to think about what they want in life and give them the tools and opportunities to achieve those goals, I'm really thankful for that," Stevenson said.
"I always knew I wanted to go to university but the support of the program and people I got to work with made the path a lot clearer.
"Until I had a few meetings with the team at NRL School to Work, I had no idea about the many avenues for getting into university for Indigenous students.
"I think it is really important for every Indigenous student out there, if they get access to the support that this program offers, then I definitely encourage it."
The NRL School to Work program - supported by the Federal Government - is helping to close the gap for Indigenous communities.
Bergan, who was an active member of the Canterbury Bulldogs' program for four years, was the first Indigenous school captain at Bonnyrigg High School.
With the support of the program, at age 15 Bergan secured part-time employment at the Opera House working as a sales representative.
Bergan is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Commerce and Arts, majoring in Criminology at the University of New South Wales. She hopes to one day work in criminal financing and fraud investigation.
"I would highly recommend the School to Work program to other young people," she said.
"It is a great program, full of amazing people and amazing opportunities.
"Make the most of this program and programs like this, engage with the School to Work staff and learn from them.
"Absorb all the opportunities given to you but don't forget to acknowledge those who have afforded them to you."
International Youth Day was held at the UN Gigiri Complex in Nigeria, with the theme being #SafeSpaces4Youth.
The day serves as an annual celebration of the positive impact young women and men have on making change within our communities, along with it being an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges and programs that our youth face around the world.
Mark Deweerd, the Senior Manager of Indigenous Strategy, said the School to Work program prides itself on creating a safe space for Indigenous students to realise their potential.
"The School to Work Program provides a culturally safe environment for our youth," he said.
"It helps guide our participant on their chosen career journey while providing opportunities that might not otherwise be presented to them."
For More information about International Youth Day, visit: http://www.un.org/en/events/youthday/index.shtml
For details on the program and how to get involved, visit https://www.nrl.com/community/learn/school-to-work/
Link to https://www.nrl.com/community/indigenous/ for more information on the NRL's Indigenous programs and initiatives, including the game's Reconciliation Action Plan.