Kirra spent months moving around mainstream schools.
When she explained to her caseworker that the students and teachers weren’t kind or supportive, her caseworker suggested an alternative pathway with Youth Off The Streets.
When she started at Bowen College in November 2020, at first she wanted nothing to do with it.
“I was like, ‘I don’t want to go near that school’,” Kirra remembers. “I visited once or twice and didn’t think it was the right fit for me. But I got more involved throughout the school year.
“When the next year came around, I looked at it with fresh eyes.”
Kirra’s attitude had shifted – and so had her confidence and self-esteem.
“I’m so happy to be here at Bowen. It’s changed everything. I’ve grown up so much from when I first started.
“The teachers here understand where you are and guide you in the right direction.”
Kirra is now 15 and in Year 10. She joined the Next Steps transition program – designed by Youth Off The Streets’ RTO Manager Mikaela Gambuzza – to discover her career goals and develop a clear pathway to work.
It includes a mix of accredited and non-accredited workshops, with units taken from the Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways.
Much of the program is about uncovering young people’s values and passions to align them with a career or further training.
“It gives the young people exposure to what a TAFE or accredited course would be like, as well as the skills that they would need to succeed in a job,” Mikaela explains.
“Some young people are on JobSeeker and already linked to employment services, but the employment providers don’t offer enough support or guidance to young people with more complex needs.”
“Many don’t succeed in the job roles given to them by the provider because it’s not meaningful to them, and so they don’t like it.”
Kirra says she’s learned several life skills since taking part in the Next Steps program.
“Mikaela has been a huge support with all kinds of things,” Kirra says. “If you need a tax file number, she’ll show you how to get one. If you need help organising work experience, she can sort you out.”
Mikaela says that many young people enter the Next Steps thinking they don’t have workplace skills because they have never had a job before.
“It can be quite daunting for them,” she says.
“But we dig through that barrier and help them realise that they do have skills.
“Many of the experiences our students have in our schools – such as service learning or work experience – or even just helping cook in the kitchen are skills that can go on a resume.”
Kirra received Mikaela’s help writing a cover letter and resume. After a family friend piqued her interest in Before and After School Care, she decided to find a part-time job in the sector.
She spoke with Mikaela and Jeni Lee, the School Manager, about the type of work she wanted, then took a leap of faith to achieve her goal.
“I walked next door because there’s a Before and After School Care centre next to Bowen College,” Kirra says, “and I asked to talk to the person who runs it.
“I got to sit down with the manager, and we figured out I could do three weeks of work experience, then see what happened next.”
Once she completed her work experience, she secured an interview and got a casual job at the centre.
“I have a lot of ‘proud mum’ moments when our students arrange a job interview or get a job and call to let me know,” Mikaela says.
Kirra is about to finish her time at Bowen College – which caters to students in Years 9 and 10 – and is transitioning back to mainstream education to finish Year 11 and 12.
“I feel much more confident than I would have been without this experience at Bowen,” she says.
“It’s shown me that I shouldn’t worry about unimportant things, and that mainstream school shouldn’t bother me because I’m just there to get the work done.”