“I didn’t have much family left after my mum passed away, and my dad has been gone since I was young,” she reflects.
“When I arrived here in 2012, it was a big change for me. I didn’t know my way around. I didn’t speak English. And coming from a non-educated home, it was very challenging.”
Unlike her peers in Australia, Sadia hadn’t attended preschool or kindergarten.
As she grew older, she realised there was an opportunity for her to be the first one in her family to complete high school.
But the journey was far from easy.
Sadia experienced violence at home. At 16, she felt she had no choice but to leave.
“My home environment wasn’t the best place to be – it didn’t feel safe,” she says.
“I decided to leave. I stayed in multiple places during my high school years. I struggled to find somewhere stable. I remember moving about five times in my first year out of home.
“I was constantly looking for somewhere to go, using every avenue I could. I’d look at Facebook groups for private rooms because I wasn’t old enough to legally rent my own place. I had no one to support me.
“When I moved into the first room, it was a huge change,” she continues. “I felt empty and alone and was asking myself, ‘What am I doing with my life?’”
Sadia had to work after school every day to be able to afford a room to rent.
“I couldn’t do normal things like hang out with friends after school,” she recalls. “I worked in a lot of different cafes. Then I worked at Woolworths. It didn’t give me much money to live.”
The only assistance Sadia experienced was from one of her teachers.
“She sometimes gave me food for lunches because I didn’t have any,” she recalls.
“I used to not feel like going to school, but I forced myself to go because I knew it would help me do something with my life.”
Sadia struggled with the uncertainty and lack of stability in her life. She felt lonely, anxious and depressed and had to navigate the complex emotions she was feeling on her own.
It took until she finished high school and turned 18 before she could legally rent her first place and find some stability.
“It was the best because I finally felt what it was like to have a secure place to live,” she says. “Before that, people I rented from would tell me to move out every few months.
“It felt nice knowing I could finally afford it and had privacy for the first time.”
In Year 11, Sadia’s teacher told her about Youth Off The Streets’ National Scholarship Program.
“She told me she could help me apply and we worked on the application together,” she says. “I felt like I needed to grasp any opportunity that came my way.”
Sadia was matched with her mentor, David Goldman, by co-ordinators of the National Scholarship Program.
“Not only in financial terms – which was amazing – but also having my mentor and the scholarship team felt like I finally had people out there who cared about me,” she explains.
“David was there for me as the support person I never had growing up.
“He helped me throughout every step of the process. I could speak to him about anything and tell him when I was struggling.”
Her mentor, David Goldman, explains how rewarding it was for him to mentor Sadia.
“Life has been a bit unkind to Sadia, and she’s experienced difficult circumstances,” he says.
“It’s incredibly satisfying and motivating when you can see someone like her, who has huge potential, find the drive and determination to succeed and achieve her goals.”
Sadia became the first in her family to graduate from high school and enter university – just like she had hoped – and David helped her get into her dream nursing course.
“My first choice was always a nursing degree,” she says. “But because of the disruptions I experienced in high school, I didn’t get into it at first.
“My mentor helped me look at all the different options.”
“I was trying to be creative and help her find different paths to the course,” David explains.
“She speaks five languages, but because English isn’t her first language, she found it challenging to get the mark to get straight into nursing, as well as the other circumstances that surrounded her when she was doing her HSC.
“We’d meet in a library to review all the options and do practice exams,” he continues. “It took about six to nine months for her to sit the entry exams while trying to get into TAFE courses.
“Eventually, we found out that Notre Dame University holistically looked at the applicant, not just their marks. I encouraged her to share her story with them if she was comfortable.”
Sadia completed an interview with Notre Dame and shared with them everything she had experienced.
“Right after the interview, she got the phone call that she was given a place to do a bridging course – if she did well enough, it would be highly likely for her to get into nursing the following year,” David says.
Sadia completed four courses with Notre Dame and was offered a place in nursing earlier this year.
“I’m finally living the dream I wanted,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to help people.
“Making a difference in other people’s lives just makes me happy,” she adds. “Nursing was the perfect thing for me to choose.”
David says that Sadia’s courage over the past two years got her to the point she is today.
“It’s been an incredible and difficult journey for her as a young person,” he says. “She’s done so much independently and has shown remarkable resilience. She’s an incredible young woman.”
Sadia shares that if there’s one thing she’s learned, it’s to never give up.
“Never lose hope because you never know what is around the corner for you,” she explains. “If you stay strong, you will get through it – there is something out there waiting for you and if you want to achieve it, you can.
“No one can take your dream away from you.”
Click here to learn more about the National Scholarship Program.