More than a pipe dream: How university became a reality for Shah Alif

When family difficulties prevented Shah Alif from accessing further education, he found support through a Youth Off The Streets scholarship.

I was going through some family issues while studying for my HSC. My father had received a terminal cancer diagnosis and my mother had to take time off work to be his carer.

I had been doing pretty well academically, but as the eldest child I now had to take on more work hours to support the family.

I found myself maintaining a 30-hour work week at Woolworths while trying to complete Year 12 with marks good enough to go to university.

Then my school’s wellbeing teacher mentioned Youth Off The Streets’ National Scholarship Program. She was aware of my circumstances and thought I would be a suitable candidate.

I applied for the scholarship. I hoped to get more financial and moral support, to put myself in a positive headspace, and to continue to perform strongly in my studies and strive for university.

Receiving the scholarship gave me all this and more. I now had peace of mind to achieve good grades and get into my desired course – a double degree in law and accounting.

The financial support provided by the Atradius Scholarship was invaluable. I’m very appreciative. I used it to buy a new computer, textbooks, stationery. Also, I could start assembling a work wardrobe to comply with the strict corporate dress code when I landed my first internship at a bank.

My degree started during the pandemic, so I didn’t get many opportunities to socialise and make new friends. But the scholarship enabled me to sign up for a lot of extracurricular stuff like sports, debating and public speaking.

I was able to pay for my Oztag registration. I was also able to join Toastmasters.

The field I’m going into relies on good speaking and presentation skills. But I’m quite shy, really. Debating and public speaking don’t come naturally to me. The mix of prepared and impromptu speaking opportunities is a great way to build my confidence.

The mentoring aspect of the scholarship is equally if not more valuable to the financial help.

Most disadvantaged young people have little exposure to people who can set them on the path to healthy personal and professional development.

My mentor was fantastic. She offered me tremendous moral support. She gave me feedback and advice to help me reach the professional goals that contributed to the early success I’ve achieved in my first job.

She also guided me to create a professional resume and maximise my chances of interview success by helping me practice job interviews. It helped me through the competitive selection process I had to go through to get my job at the ‘Big Four’ bank I now work at.

I’d love to become a mentor myself one day and help someone like me get a chance for success in life.

Since my internship in business banking, I now have an ongoing position with the wealth management space as a consultant. After graduating, I’m interested in becoming a financial advisor.

I have an interest in helping small businesses and nonprofits through my career. I have a special connection with that, given my upbringing.

I want to be an advocate for youth financial literacy. That’s so undervalued in our school curriculum. I want to help others from financially disadvantaged backgrounds like me.

Youth Off The Streets’ scholarship team were so supportive, making sure I was coping okay and getting the support I needed.

They go out of their way to make sure scholarship recipients can make the most of their opportunities through the scholarship.

I would definitely encourage other students to apply for a Youth Off The Streets scholarship. The support made it possible for me to excel academically.

I’d love to say a huge thank you to the sponsors, mentors and everyone who runs the National Scholarship Program. It has been the reason I could pursue tertiary studies. I hope the program continues to grow to provide hope for young people. I hope it inspires them to dream big, succeed, and one day give back to the community themselves.

Learn more about Youth Off The Streets’ National Scholarship Program.

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