Shared cultural heritage gives teens future focus

AIME participants at UOW: mentor Liam Crook (left), Kiama High student Harry Jones, his sister Chelsea, and mentor Jessica Hinde. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

AIME participants at UOW: mentor Liam Crook (left), Kiama High student Harry Jones, his sister Chelsea, and mentor Jessica Hinde. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

CHELSEA Jones was considering dropping out of high school until she joined an inspirational mentorship program for indigenous teens.

The year 10 Kiama High School student is in her second year of the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, which pairs Aboriginal high school students with University of Wollongong students as mentors.

The aim is to help year 9 to 12 students complete their high school education and take up further education, whether it be at university or TAFE, training or finding work.

AIME receives no government funding and this year there are 280 UOW mentors and 400 students from Bulli to Eden.

Chelsea, 15, whose grandmother is Aboriginal, said when she joined AIME she wanted to learn more about her culture and what the mentors had to say about staying in school.

"It's been really good working with [mentor] Jessica [Hinde]," she said.

"It's made me think why I should stay in school and how I would benefit if I did."

Chelsea said she wanted to go to university and do art or photography.

"Before every AIME session, they pay respect to the elders and they talk about how it's better for us to get into our culture."

She is one of eight Kiama High students in AIME, including older brother, Harry, in year 11.

Harry, 17, in his third year of AIME, said it had helped him set goals. He wants to pursue a career in sports media, and enjoyed working with mentor Liam Crook, 18.

"He's positive," Harry said. "He's pretty smart as well."

Liam said AIME was rewarding for both mentors and students.

AIME UOW centre manager Brenden Newton, a former pro big-wave bodyboarder, said last week's three-hour outreach session was the second of five this year.

Students worked on goal-setting and wrote to indigenous role models, such as St George Illawarra Dragons player Joel Thompson and actress Tammy Clarkson.

The role models will attend the students' final AIME session.

National Hoodie Day on July 11 raises funds for AIME.

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