A NEWLY-opened school and long-running scholarship program will help give a sense of purpose and direction to the Illawarra's "forgotten" teenagers.
Craig Davis College will be run by Father Chris Riley's Youth Off the Streets organisation at the site of the former Keelong juvenile detention centre at Cordeaux Heights.
The school officially opened last week.
Youth Off the Streets will also again offer more than 20 scholarships to disadvantaged young people.
The two-classroom college is one of five NSW high schools run by Youth Off the Streets and will house up to a dozen year 9 and 10 students.
The $2.3 million school is for young people disengaged from mainstream education.
They may be living in refuges, homeless, have mental-health problems or referred from other schools. Students will be offered practical classes, as well as the chance to complete their year 10 qualifications.
The principal of Father Riley's schools throughout NSW, Lou Single, said facilities were improving daily.
She said the focus was on students eventually completing their HSC, continuing to TAFE or gaining employment.
"It's taking students who are just wanting to change their lives or outcomes, or just take charge of their lives," she said.
"We're intending to be there for the long-term, and working with the community to improve the outcomes for the youth and the local community," she said.
Father Riley said they focused on much smaller classes and more interactive teaching.
"I think schools are what we do best; we have had amazing results in our schools," he said.
Father Riley said they would be looking to develop the Illawarra school further within the next few years, including extending to year 11 and 12 students.
Nominations for their annual scholarship program will close on April 5.
The initiative was developed by Father Riley nine years ago.
"Many of our scholarship recipients experience financial barriers or lack traditional support networks and live away from their families," he said. "Without this opportunity these young people, who have a desire to achieve their best, struggle to find the avenue to do so."
The program provides financial and personal support for young people to realise their educational goals in any field, including academia, the arts, sports and trades.
Scholarships include financial support of $5000 to help them further their education or training.
Mrs Single said three of last year's 22 successful applicants were from the Illawarra.
For more information, visit youthoffthestreets.com.au/scholarshipprogram.