For Melbourne Polytechnic student Akolda, achieving the student of the year award is something he never thought was possible.
When he was only five years old, Akolda’s mother decided they would leave their home in South Sudan and head to Egypt, before finally settling down in Australia a few years later.
“Packing up your home and leaving behind everything you know is one of the most terrifying things you can do. But my mum knew there were better opportunities for us in Australia.”
Scared of the unknown but excited by the possibilities, they began their new life in Newcastle, before moving to Melbourne eight years later.
When he was 17, Akolda enrolled in the Yarra Youth Service ‘Living it Up program’. Here he spent time learning basic life skills such as cooking, playing games and sports with other members, and connecting with various youth workers.
The program was flexible and allowed him to choose to learn about topics that interested him.
“I really loved all my youth workers. They made me feel supported and understood, which was invaluable to me as a 17-year-old in a new city.”
Inspired by his youth workers, Akolda completed his Diploma of Community Services at Melbourne Polytechnic.
He now works as a Youth Worker at Yarra Youth Services and a Youth P Leader with the Drum Youth Services.
“I’ve come full circle. It’s amazing to now be working with the people that helped me. It feels good to be repaying the favour to other young people.”
“I love being able to work with kids and the feeling of helping guide someone through difficult times in their lives. It helps them to have a youth worker with the same cultural background. I sometimes see my younger self in them.”
“Not many people from my home country finish tertiary studies, so it’s a huge achievement for me to get this award.”
“Before this diploma, I was working smaller jobs and didn’t have much ambition. Studying wasn’t something I believed I was capable of doing and I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to do so. It’s given me a path to follow and a dream to pursue.”
“My mum fought hard for me to live in Australia. I hope this award makes her proud of her decision.”
To find out more about Human Services programs, click here.