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After going through her own struggles, NRL Young Person of the Year award finalist Sophie Scott is now determined to make a difference in the mental health space.

Scott credits the NRL's School to Work program for unlocking her confidence and a passion for serving the community.

The teenager joined the School to Work program at Coombabah State High School on the Gold Coast in Year 10 before graduating last year.

Titans School to Work mentor Melissa Lightburn described Scott as a "natural leader" with an eagerness to learn and grow.

Now working for the NRL's Munchkin League early childhood program, which uses footy drills to develop fine and gross motor skills for kids aged 3-5 years old, Scott has the power to inspire.

"It started about three years ago - I started decreasing, I started doubting myself. I just wasn't enjoying life," she told NRL.com.

Sophie Scott says the School to Work program has inspired her to make a difference in the community.
Sophie Scott says the School to Work program has inspired her to make a difference in the community.

"I couldn't find ways to be happy even though I was travelling the world, representing my country and my club with cheerleading.

"I look back on myself now and I was at my fittest and I was doing everything I loved, but I always found the excuse to not be happy. I suffer terribly with anxiety and depression.

"I've gone to counselling for about two years now but up until this year, I didn't help myself out of counselling. I thought that it was the psychologist's job to fix me, but I wouldn't help fix myself."

Scott's life "really went downhill" towards the end of last year. Caught up amongst negative influences, she used alcohol "to numb everything" and began to self-harm.

Things unravelled when her car was stolen and her house was broken into in the same week before she quit her job at the time.

But she found the strength to adopt a more positive mindset and in the past couple of months, Scott has "never felt better".

"I've worked on myself, taken the time to remove people out of life that weren't good for me, and I can definitely see a change," she said.

"Having a job with the NRL, having Mel [Lightburn] there, has definitely helped me through all of those challenges."

Scott has volunteered with the NRL State of Mind program on the path to her ultimate goal of a career in mental health advocacy.

"Anything I can do to help drag people out of the low place they're in would be a success for me," Scott said.

Mulitalo presented with Ken Stephen Medal

Lightburn said she could rely on Scott, who is completing a Certificate III in Sport and Recreation as part of her role with Munchkin League.

Through the School to Work program, Scott was part of the 2019 Youth Summit in Melbourne and has volunteered to work at Titans games.

"Sophie was always one of my go-to students for any volunteer opportunities. She loves her football, she loves being involved in the program, she loves helping out, she loves being around people," Lightburn said.

"It's natural for her; she always puts her hand up to help."

And while she didn't win the prestigious NRL Young Person of the Year award, Scott being named the Queensland finalist was a "very exciting" and "proud" moment for Lightburn.

The Titans put together a surprise ceremony, attended by Ken Stephen Medal nominee Jamal Fogarty, to announce Scott's achievement.

Youth Summit participants Indigo, Tahnie and Sophie.
Youth Summit participants Indigo, Tahnie and Sophie.

"I know she has been through a lot, but she gives as much as she can ... She puts others before herself," Lightburn said.

Scott is one of many shining lights from the NRL School to Work program, which supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in completing Year 12 and finding meaningful employment or tertiary education.

"Our program is different to any other program in that we continue that relationship with the students once they finish school," Lightburn said.

"We are privileged to still be able to maintain that relationship and provide opportunities for our students once they finish school."

Scott praised the program and Lightburn.

"Mel definitely helped bring the confidence out of me. Just having her confidence in me made me open up," Scott said.

"I've always said to Mel, 'I want to do what you do'."

 

If you are in distress, you can contact one of these national helplines:
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
- MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
- Headspace: 1800 650 890
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