In celebration of Reconciliation Week and the NRL's Indigenous Round, four Indigenous students from the NRL's School to Work Program were invited to Roosters HQ to share their career aspirations and meet the NRL squad ahead of the Indigenous Youth Summit.
Students Talan Higgins, William Fry, Erika Stoddard and Penelope Fisher - along with staff members Charmaine Piper, Jason Solomon and Zoe Kahn - presented members of the NRL squad with footballs that featured their own personally designed Indigenous dot-paintings, with with the quartet each receiving a Sydney Roosters Indigenous polo shirt.
The students also enjoyed morning tea and were invited to join in on a team meeting at Moore Park.
Project Officer Zoe Kahn explained the benefits of the School to Work program, as well as the upcoming Indigenous Leadership Youth Summit.
“We mentor within schools with Indigenous students in year 11 and 12,” she said.
“We do a range of different workshops and once the students approach the completion of their secondary education, we work on transitioning them to their identified aspiration – whether it be tertiary education or full-time employment.
For them to represent their culture and to speak in front of the NRL squad and coaching staff and to see the facilities here means a lot to them.Zoe Khan School to Work Project Officer
“Whatever they aim to aspire to, we create that opportunity and we work towards that pathway during school for their final two years of secondary education.
“We usually run the Indigenous Leadership Youth Summit around the Indigenous All Stars week, but due to covid-19 protocols we were unable to do it then, but we have been to hold it during Reconciliation Week and Indigenous Round.
“We identify 64 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander year 11 and 12 students as future leaders within their school and community to represent each NRL Club wherever their catchments are.
“Throughout the whole week, we identify a range of workshops from culture to work readiness. We choose four Youth Ambassadors, two boys and two girls who represent each club through a fun-filled and educational week."
For North Lakes High School Student Penelope Fisher, the School to Work program is one that she says not only helped her to connect with her fellow students but to also guide and inspire her towards studying law.
“Every second Thursday Zoe would come in and ask me questions about the program – where it’s going to happen and how it’s going to happen," Penelope explained.
“One of the activities we did for this week was to get the footballs and paint them with Aboriginal artwork, which was really cool. We got to sit down together as a little Aboriginal community within the school and connect with everyone.
“Law is a recent interest that came up last year but before that, I had no idea what I wanted to do.
“My nan is involved with jury duty quite a bit, and after I asked her about it and she told me more about it, I got more interested in it and it intrigued my curiosity. I started looking into it by researching different laws and practices and I ended up into a bit of a rabbit hole, so it’s definitely what I want to pursue.
“Studying year 11 and 12 with extra-curricular activities can get hard at times, so it’s great to have someone like Zoe to catch up with or do some problem solving with.
The program has helped me a lot, especially in pulling apart the different pathways I need to go through to achieve what I aspire to do.Penelope Fisher School to Work Student
“The program has helped me a lot, especially in pulling apart the different pathways I need to go through to achieve what I aspire to do.”
The pair also expressed their gratitude and thrill to meet the Roosters NRL squad at Moore Park in what was an enjoyable day for everyone involved.
“It was a great experience at the Roosters,” Penelope beamed.
“It was interesting being able to be in the team meetings and seeing everyone come together to present the Indigenous Jersey.
“Morning tea was great and being able to introduce ourselves to the players was exciting. Seeing all the roles that people play in the headquarters and being able to learn new things was interesting too.
“I can see a lot of benefits coming from this and hopefully everything goes well through the week."
“For the Sydney Roosters to give us this opportunity has been amazing," Zoe added.
“It was great to see how happy the kids were, especially since not many students get to experience something like this.
“For them to represent their culture and to speak in front of the NRL squad and coaching staff here means a lot to them.
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