Shoalhaven Aboriginal students had a dose of inspiration at the University of Wollongong Shoalhaven Campus on Wednesday.
About 80 students from years 9 to 11 took part in the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME).
AIME endeavours to give local indigenous students the skills, opportunities, belief and confidence to grow and succeed in the world beyond school.
Mentors for the program are indigenous and non-indigenous UOW students who are keen to help students in the vital years of schooling between years 9 and 12.
The program also keeps in touch with students six months after their schooling is complete.
Throughout the day students were teamed up with mentors and challenged in group classes.
Mentor Sean Gray from Nowra could relate to what many of the students were going through.
“I left school at year 11, not thinking I’d go to uni,” he said.
“But it wasn’t long before I wanted to be learning again. So I did a traineeship and got into uni that way,” he said.
Mr Gray is now studying psychology.
“It is good to see so many kids involved in this. It’s very hard to know what you want to do after school, especially when you’re only in year 9,” he said.
Mr Gray is mentoring Vincentia High School student Zach Williams from Wreck Bay.
Mr Williams said he was determined to finish year 12.
“School isn’t my favourite thing to do and I get a bit distracted but I’ll hang in there.
“It’s fun to be a part of this day and it has been fun meeting all these people.
“It’s good to know I’m not the only one who feels the way I do about school,” he said.
UOW AIME centre manager Brendan Newton said the program was off to a great start, with students keen to meet their mentors and get involved.
“Our aim is to get them engaged rather than disengaged with school and also to build a relationship with their mentors who will support them through this stage,” Mr Newton said.
“The ultimate goal is not to push every student into university, that’s not always for everyone.
“What we hope to do is get everyone involved in the program to transition to something, whether that be a job, further study at university or a trade.”
Around Australia more than 2700 indigenous students participate in AIME in 2013.
Of the 220 AIME students who completed year 12 in 2013, 59 went to university.
Many others embarked on other avenues of further education, training and employment.
The year 9 to year 12 completion rate in 2013 was 76 per cent, well above the national indigenous average of 38 per cent and close to the national non-indigenous average of 80 per cent.