Local Youth Charity Produces First HSC StudentWhen you’re a kid, you often come face to face with wistful adults who lament that their glory days are well behind them. These people will probably look at you resentfully, and warn you that ‘school days are the best days of your life’.
But high school is not for everyone. For some, the rigid constraints of the curriculum can stifle creativity. For others, high school can seem impossible due to the hierarchical socialisation that tends to occur. And for others still, mainstream high schools simply cannot offer the specialised support that they need to thrive.
This is where WAYS Youth Services steps in. WAYS is a not-for-profit community organisation providing educational and support services to youths and their families across eastern Sydney. While WAYS used to work as a drop-in centre only, since 2008 it has also been home to its very own secondary school, WAYS Secondary.
WAYS Secondary is a non-fee paying, independent high school for young people who have been disconnected from mainstream education, and is committed to providing a supportive, engaging and flexible learning environment. Crucially, it embraces difference, whether that takes the form of different ways of learning, different domestic situations, or different abilities.
In early 2016, WAYS Secondary began offering Year 12 classes. Now, it has achieved the remarkable feat of having its first student sit the HSC. That student is 17-year-old Muru Rudolph.
After being expelled from his local school in New Zealand, Mr. Rudolph came to Australia from New Zealand with his family three and half years ago. Back at home he spent his time on the streets, getting into trouble with his friends. When he arrived in Sydney, Mr. Rudolph simply saw school as a way in which to pass the time until he could work.
When he wasn’t accepted at a school in Rose Bay, Mr. Rudolph went to WAYS Secondary. He was at the beginning of Year 10.
“When he first got here, Mr. Rudolph presented huge psychological and educational difficulties, but we could see his potential and we were determined not to give up on him,” Dr. Terri Said, Principal of WAYS Secondary, said.
Mr. Rudolph said the opportunity to study at WAYS changed the way he thought about school, himself and the world around him.
“I am proud of myself and thankful for everything WAYS has helped me to achieve,” he said. “I would never have thought a few years ago that I was capable of getting there.”
“WAYS altered my perception of the world. It made me enjoy my education, find lasting friendships and feel appreciated.
“The teachers have shown me what I’m capable of and they push me to do well.”
Mr. Rudolph’s next goal is to get into university to study construction management.
Dr. Said praised both Mr. Rudolph’s emotional and academic growth.
“All the other students at WAYS Secondary look up to him,” she said. “He started as a rebel, and became a role model.”
WAYS hopes many more students will follow in Mr. Rudolph’s footsteps, and while it does receive some government funding, donations and volunteers make a huge difference.
Check out their good work at www.ways.org.au.