November 17, 2022 was a very special day for 25 young people who, despite facing many obstacles, graduated Year 12 from Carinity Education Rockhampton.
Many of our graduating class started their secondary education at the special assistance school looking for a fresh start. Their schooling to that point had been affected by bullying, mental health issues, learning difficulties and other significant personal challenges.
The future is much brighter now for student and young mum Paige, who received the Curriculum award for consistently achieving academic excellence.
She is looking forward to continuing her studies at TAFE and becoming a nail technician. She credits Carinity Education staff for her personal growth.
“Before I first came to Carinity I was getting bullied, and I was having difficulty talking to people. Cameron, the Senior Youth Worker, has been so easy to talk to and he understood what I was going through. I even named my baby after him,” Paige reflects.
“What I enjoyed most about the school was the flexibility it provides. I was able to have a baby and still graduate.”
School Principal, Lyn Harland, is especially proud of this graduating class. They are the first student cohort to complete their entire secondary education at the school, which opened in 2016.
“Not only did our graduating class have to overcome their own personal obstacles, they also completed their two years of senior schooling in the middle of a worldwide pandemic,” Lyn says.
For graduating student Kayla, who has had learning difficulties, Carinity made an enormous difference to her schooling.
“I actually wanted to attend, which was a big change from when I was at primary school. Friends, youth workers and teachers were always welcoming and made me want to come. I would recommend Carinity because you feel supported every day that you are here,” she says.
According to fellow 2022 graduate Jharna, the support she received from Carinity was crucial to her being able to graduate.
“It is easier to fit in and more supportive than other schools. You can be comfortable with who you are. It is different because the staff have more time for the students. Carinity always give people a second chance and usually change people’s lives for the better,” Jharna explains.
It’s success stories like these that have seen the school grow from a small team of 10 staff and 35 students in 2017 to 35 staff and 130 students at the end of 2022.
For many staff at Carinity Education Rockhampton, working with students who have faced challenges provides the motivation to keep working tirelessly, day in and day out.
Danielle New, the school’s Deputy Principal, feels a strong sense of fulfilment from the progress the students have made.
“To say I am proud of this graduating class is an understatement. Most of these graduates were in my first class when I came to Carinity. They helped me to find my passion for teaching again,” she says.
“We have shared many moments together over the years and I have so many memories that I will cherish forever.”
The school’s VET Coordinator, Jordan Bailey, shares the same sense of joy – particularly given she also started her employment at Carinity in the same year that the graduating class commenced.
“This year of graduates is the first Year 7 class I taught here when I arrived in 2017. These young people and the graduates before them are the reason I work in the field and couldn’t see myself working anywhere else,” Jordan says.
“I am honoured to think that I had a little influence on their schooling life, and we changed the way they see school.”