Project Officer Tayla Kafoa didn’t let the challenges of Covid during the past year dimmish the impact the School to Work (S2W) Program had on young indigenous students engaged in the Sharks and NRL-supported initiative.
An education and employment program that utilises the positive profile of the game of Rugby League to support and encourage young Indigenous Australians to stay at school, to further their education or to enhance their ability to get a job, S2W provides work experience, mentoring and leadership opportunities.
In helping to ensure the participants successfully complete school and transition into further study, training or meaningful employment, S2W utilises the combined resources of NRL clubs including the Sharks, the Australian Government’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and NRL head office, while being backed by players, community, government and business supporters to assist in carrying out its objectives.
In 2015 S2W was adopted by the Sharks and has since become an integral program within the Club’s Diversity pillar.
Driving the Club’s S2W program is Tayla Kafoa, the Sharks Project Officer who currently services 20 local schools, 14 of those in the Sutherland Shire, with some impressive outcomes the result.
At those 20 schools there are 27 active students in Year 11, and 38 currently completing their Year 12 studies.
Of the 38 in Year 12, 18 students have already received university offers for 2022, another eight are due to receive their offer results before the end of the month, with the remaining 12 students exploring pathways including fulltime employment, traineeships and TAFE.
A popular and significant part of the program is the annual NRL-hosted Indigenous Youth Leadership Summit, which in 2021 brought together 64 Year 11 students aspiring to be young leaders in their respective communities.
This year the Sharks sent four students engaged in the S2W program in Shalita Brennan, Anthony Karam and Imagen Bursill, along with Josh Munroe representing Sharks community partner Deadly Choices.
During the week-long event participants were involved in several activities aimed at developing life skills, building leadership capability, strengthening their cultural knowledge and reinforcing the fact they are capable of achieving their goals through hard work and determination.
Also as a part of the S2W program were the Online Yarning Circles, an initiative providing students with the opportunity to meet, listen to and interact with positive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander role models in ensuring they remain connected to culture, focus on their aspirations, and stay motivated to stay in school to complete their high school education.
The NRL S2W program identified the impact the Covid restrictions were having on student’s education, and their need to remain connected to their communities and culture, hence the on-line interaction with profile role models and high achievers.
Incoming Sharks recruit Nicho Hynes was one those keynote speakers to address the S2W students throughout the year.
While S2W plays a vital role during the senior high school years, the program continues for six months after graduation, with close mentoring of each individual’s progress on a structured ‘post-school’ plan.
Three outstanding examples of the high achievers to come through the program in recent times include Isabelle Lathlean and Nathan Murphy, both having commenced the inaugural UST Global – Step It Up traineeships back in March 2021, which resulted in the pair being offered 12-month contracts as Junior Engineers with Macquarie Bank, and Harrison Porter, who recently reached his 26 week milestone in his landscaping apprenticeship with local business – Birds Backyard Landscapes – after Kafoa had connected with local business owner Jordan Bird who then offered the full time apprenticeship.
Plenty of outstanding work done and results achieved, with more in the future for S2W which is a significant Sharks-supported community program.
Caption - Lead photo, Anthony Karam and Imagen Bursill from the S2W program
A list of the participating S2W schools with active participants;
Blakehurst High School
Cronulla High School
De La Salle Catholic College
Endeavour High School
Engadine High School
Gymea Technology High School
Heathcote High School
Jannali High School
Kirrawee High School
Kogarah High School
Menai High School
Lucas Heights High School
Port Hacking High School
St Patricks College
St John Bosco College
Sylvania High School
Beverly Hills Girls High School
Picnic Point High School
Christian Brothers Lewisham