After taking on board the advice of the NRL Community staff – and Prince Harry – Christina Tabone has found herself with a new mindset that has no limits.
The year 10 Doonside High School student was recognised as the 2018 NRL Youth Advocate of the Year at the program's annual appreciation day, which celebrated the 71 young people who were inducted into the program this year.
Also recognised on the day was Canterbury Boys and Menai High School support teacher Stephanie Goni, who was named the program's 2018 Teacher of the Year.
Tabone was crowned the winner for her efforts in her school and community through her involvement in speaking on various panels, running gala days, presenting the Harmony Go program to her local primary school and liaising with politicians while juggling volunteer work at Multicultural NSW with school.
When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, visited the game's In League In Harmony program in October this year, Tabone said being asked to address the royals was a surreal experience and one that she thanks NRL Community Engagement Officer Joe Galuvao and his team for.
"When I got a phone call from Joe and he asked me to address the Duke and Duchess I was nervous and excited at the same time," Tabone said.
"I remember on the day hearing the school start screaming and Kenneth and I looked at each other in shock that they were actually here.
"I couldn't stop smiling I was so overwhelmed – it was a unique and amazing experience and I have Joe and everyone that is involved with the program to thank for that."
The 16-year-old said her drive behind wanting to create change stemmed from the advice she had been given in the program.
"I remember Harry saying to us that our generation is the ripple effect of optimism and that we should appreciate this program as it's teaching us skills that will set us up for life," Tabone said.
"I am truly grateful that this program walked into my life.
"I was an outgoing and confident person before the program but it has definitely taught me to always jump at every opportunity and never say no – you never lose, you win or you learn, is what they always say to us."
Aside from the awards, the Youth Advocate Celebration Day last Friday consisted of a youth panel with three of the 2018 youth advocates sharing their experience in the program, as well as a guest panel discussion with former and current players Dene Halatau, Jason King, Simaima Taufa and Frank Puletua, who spoke to the group about their playing career and the resilience they had to have in tough times.
The celebration also recognised Kenneth Tuala, the 2017 Youth Advocate of the Yearm as he moves into 2019 as school captain of Hills Sports High School.
"The Youth Advocate program is designed for the young people to own," Galuvao said.
"A big part of the Youth Advocate program is that we hear from our young people and we take their ideas and put them in action. It's about giving our young people a voice.
"Friday was all about recognising the excellence of students who have taken what they've learnt during the year and being able to make a difference not only within themselves but in their communities as well.
"Christina was one of those students – her mindset to contribute positively to her community was inspiring and she deserved to be rewarded for that."
The program has contributed to 18 mentor accreditations through NSW TAFE, 6 referee accreditations, 6 Pacific Youth Mentors chosen for the 2019 Pacific Youth Summit, and the program's Youth Advocates running the In League In Harmony Gala Days and delivering Harmony Go to 330 primary schools.