The NRL's Youth Advocate program is giving the next generation of leaders the confidence to make their voices heard.
Panthers premiership-winner and NRL community engagement officer Joe Galuvao told NRL.com the program was all about making youth feel empowered.
"I'm proud to say that we've created a space where our kids can stand up and know that their voice is valid," Galuvao said.
"Especially over the last couple years, we've taken the approach of hearing from them and taking their ideas on board to grow this program."
Thanks to support from the New South Wales government, the program has been able to set aside $10,000 of that funding so participants can apply and get the chance to deliver their own programs.
The program is also offering advocates a chance to enhance their public speaking and presentation skills, along with mentoring opportunities and undertaking referee courses.
"It was important that we set that money aside to resource our advocates and initiatives," Galuvao said.
"This will allow them to take what they have learned through the program and be able to implement it into areas that they are passionate about."
Hills Sports High School physical education teacher and rugby league coach Scott Jones has seen the impact the leadership program has on students.
"The key message students from our school have taken from this program is all about standing out and being the difference," Jones said.
"One of our students, in particular, Kenneth Tuala, has taken that on board and is now reaping the benefits of the program and his actions have also influenced other students to want to follow his lead.
"He has also been a leader within our rugby league program and has been instrumental in it becoming a player-driven program.
"His leadership qualities and even his confidence has gone from strength to strength, so much so that he was awarded the youth Advocate of the Year in 2018, he got to meet the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and was named our school captain for this year."
Concord High School jumped on board at the end of 2018 and student learning support officer Joyce Valele has already seen a difference in her students.
"There is no program in schools like this one," Valele said.
"Before we got involved with the program last year there were a number of our students who were struggling inside and outside of the classroom, whether that be not being able to find the motivation to focus or lacking confidence in themselves.
"It is incredible to see how far these students have come in this short amount of time, when I speak to each and every one of them I can see how confident they have become.
"I also seen them grow in regards to their interactions with other students, a lot of the seniors have since taken the younger ones under their wing and really supported them in their junior years of schooling."
To learn more about the NRL’s Youth Advocate Program (YAP) visit: https://www.nrl.com/community/programs/youth-advocate/