Re-engaging young people

MAINSTREAM schooling is not for everyone.

Bendigo's NET school, which forms part of Bendigo Senior Secondary College, is helping reconnect disengaged young people with their education. 

Students Bethany Price, Indiana Priest and Stacey Redwood agreed to share their stories with the Bendigo Advertiser ...

BETHANY PRICE

SCHOOL was always challenging for Bethany Price.

It made her feel anxious and panicky.

She struggled with the curriculum and, each year, lagged further behind her peers.

"It got to the stage where I couldn't make it through the front gate - my anxiety was that bad," she said.

Bethany found she could not connect with mainstream teaching methods. 

"It always made it that little bit harder - being in class and being asked to do the work but not being able to do it," she said. 

At the start of year 10, Bethany dropped out of school.

She had no ambitions and was mixing with the wrong crowd. 

"I was on a rollercoster and I was going down," she said. 

"I had friends who dropped out of school - none of them got jobs.

"Two of my friends have kids now and they are still not doing anything."

Six months after leaving school, Bethany enrolled with the NET school and later discovered she had auditory processing disorder - a condition which affects the way in which young people process information.

"When I knew that, it was easy to work out a way to get around it," she said. 

"NET school has helped me so much."

Bethany said smaller class sizes and a focus on student interests helped her learn.

"It is learning (based on) how you want to learn," she said.

"If you're struggling, you don't have to put up your hand in front of 27 others and ask something that sounds silly to other people but not silly from your point of view."

Bethany spent four years at NET school and completed a Certificate III in Children's Services.

She works at Western District Employment Access and is doing a traineeship in customer service.

"It has been a long, long journey," she said.

INDIANA PRIEST

INDIANA Priest is determined to make a name for herself. 

The 16-year-old attends Bendigo's NET school and has aspirations to study law at university. 

She wants to run her own legal firm and to give her daughter Jaida, 2, a good life. 

The journey until now hasn't always been smooth sailing.

Indiana dropped out of school in year 7 and "did some bad things" in the year that followed. 

"I slept during the day," she said.

"At night I would sneak out of the house with friends and put myself in situations where I could have killed myself.

"I did some really bad things."

Indiana said some young mothers did not understand the importance of education and were happy to receive welfare benefits. 

"I want to go somewhere in life," she said. 

"I don't want to live off Centrelink for my whole life - I want to go somewhere, not just sit at home all the time.

"I would be lost without NET school."

Indiana said she was criticised by other young mothers for continuing with her education. 

"We get criticised for coming to school and not spending time with our children," she said. 

"I come to NET school three times a week - I am only meant to come on Wednesdays - but I put in extra days so I can finish quicker."

Indiana said she counted on the support of her mentor Judy, who had become more than a teacher.

"I call her all the time, on weekends, whenever I need," she said. 

"The support she gives me is amazing - I don't know what I would do without it."

STACEY REDWOOD

STACEY Redwood has always enjoyed learning.  

But when Stacey fell pregnant at the end of year 11, she was forced to leave Bendigo Senior Secondary College. 

Fortunately for Stacey, a nurse told her about the NET school and she could continue her education.

"Most of my family never finished their secondary school education," she said. 

"I wanted to continue at school.

"I think learning is important.

"I want to get a good job and give my child a better life."

Stacey said she attended NET school three times a week and brought along her son Riley. 

Stacey said there were certain barriers for students who did not fit into mainstream schooling - including access to educational institutions.

"If someone didn't tell me about the school I would never have known about it," she said. 

"The school isn't really well-known and people don't know about it.

"I heard a couple of kids came here but they didn't have children."

Stacey said she started a childcare course before she fell pregnant and hoped to complete it. 

BENDIGO'S NET school is helping to reconnect young people, MADDIE WINES writes.

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