My name is Emily, I’m what people call a high school drop-out. If left school at Year 10 but the good news is, I’m currently completing my final year of Occupational Therapy, I’m a member of the Headspace Youth Future Crew Geelong, I work casually as an OT assistant at Wild Rumpus and as a Disability Support Worker at Gateways Support Services. How did I get here? I’ll tell you my story.

Emily Geelong Youth Powerlaunch

Throughout my schooling, I managed an array of additional challenges to the usual teenager, in the form of two persisting mental health conditions. I finished year 10 but as for many young people, my plans for the future went completely awry.

I didn’t begin studying again until I impulsively chose a Certificate 3 to complete after I saw all my friends beginning to apply for university. I started off working in a pharmacy but it wasn’t me dream.

I wanted to be an Occupational Therapist. I looked further and begun volunteering at the neighbourhood house each Friday night serving people experiencing hardship of many kinds. This confirmed to me that I wanted to work with people in health and get a degree at University.

The severe roadblock was only having Year 10 and a certificate 3 in travel. I called every university and TAFE I could think of to find an option.

My saviour, you could call it, came in the form of the Latrobe University Tertiary Enabling Program. This program was open to anyone over the age of 18 who had experienced disadvantage which impeded their ability to attend University through the typical pathway of a year 12 ATAR.

Thanks to this, I’m studying my Bachelor of Occupational Therapy at Deakin University in Geelong which I have been so grateful for.

I volunteered at the Royal Children’s Hospital Starlight Foundation Room throughout my first two years of University and I’m employed with Gateways Disability Support services and adore the work.

In my second year of Uni I also volunteered at the Christian College Kindergarten once a week for a term, to further gain experience in Paediatrics. In my third year I was successful in a job as a disability support worker and Occupational Therapy Assistant at Wild Rumpus.

Here is a good point to divert and remind you that my, what I call extra-circular challenges with my mental health, have never gone away and I continue to manage them daily. Each education provider, TAFE or Uni has support teams. Providers such as headspace, jigsaw and the eating disorder teams can be great support network as well and I highly suggest people seek support if it is the difference between achieving their career goals.

At the end of my third year of Uni I decided mental health was an interest area for me, so I applied for the Headspace Future Crew. I am now six months out from graduating from my degree which is not bad for a 15-year-old high school dropout.

For anyone looking at alternative pathways for their goals, my top three tips would be:

  1. Volunteer. It’s a great way to trial different interest areas!
  2. Call around. There’s so many support services and pathway options but they can be difficult to learn about, so preserver.
  3. Accept additional supports. People are truly happy to help you along the way so don’t feel like you must do it all alone!

There is a new program starting up in Geelong called Geelong Youth Power which aims to assist people aged 15 to 25 find their own unique pathways like my own. It is an incredible support network to have!

There’s a quote which says, “we can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”. I hope that through sharing my story, I may have been able to help at least one person to preserver, to see a pathway that they previously didn’t know about which can assist them to reach their own personal goal.

Story and photo supplied.