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Melbourne Academy graduate offered a place at Victoria University

22 March 2016

A young student who once missed months of high school due to bullying has graduated from Melbourne City Mission’s Melbourne Academy, and been offered a place at Victoria University (VU).

At the Academy, Matthew did not miss a day of classes in two years, graduated with a Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL), and has just been accepted into a Certificate 4 in Liberal Arts.

Last year he featured in The Age newspaper in a story about school refusal, a serious behavioural problem that is commonly linked to mental health issues and, if left untreated, can result in prolonged absences from school, long term unemployment and other complex life issues.

Even though he'd dropped out of school, Matthew wanted to continue learning. He counts himself as fortunate that a youth worker referred him to Melbourne Academy.

“It was hard for me to get back into it because I was scared the students might be the same as they were at my other school. But I had my interview, I got accepted, and all the other students were quite nice,” Matthew said.

Melbourne Academy’s model of having a teacher and a youth worker in every classroom worked especially well for Mathew.

“If someone does have an issue, or is going through a hard time, the youth workers and teachers can support them. I was one of the students who had ups and downs, and they helped me through it a lot and they showed me learning could be fun.”

The Academy offers VCAL, which is a direct pathway into further education through TAFE and institutions such as Victoria University.

In addition to literacy, numeracy, personal development skills and other units, students are able to choose industry-specific and work-related skills subjects for which they have an aptitude and/or passion.

“All the students wanted to learn (at the Academy), and I could learn without people distracting me. Also, our projects were based around our own interests. So I remember lots of projects I had a blast doing because they were something I wanted to do: I got to record some music and I was in a short movie there too,” he said. “If I’d stayed in mainstream high school I probably wouldn’t have had those opportunities.”

Along with new skills and the VCAL qualification, Matthew’s confidence soared at the Academy.

“My confidence went through the roof! I think Melbourne Academy has helped me define who I am… I settled down and thought about what I wanted to do in future. “When I got the offer (from VU) I was jumping in my seat!”

Now he’s set his sights even higher, planning to move on to a Diploma or Degree in Arts and Humanities and a career incorporating his passion for the humanities, sociology and psychology.

Melbourne Academy is just one way we support clients, through education and training, to move out of disadvantage and achieve their life goals.

Our Bridges service supports adults who have mild to severe intellectual disabilities, with educational opportunities and community-based training and support including an accredited Certificate of Work Education through Kangan TAFE.

This year, for the first time, Bridges clients will graduate with a full certificate instead of a participation certificate, which has been the standard offering in the past.

The certificate will still be streamlined for people with a disability, but it will be more challenging and include literacy and numeracy skills. This means that Bridges clients such as Sandra (pictured above) will have a formal qualification that will provide a springboard for further education, exemptions and credits on other courses, and better opportunities for workplace participation.

Sandra has been studying for the past two years to achieve her Certificate of Work Education. She loves learning and participating at Bridges, where she’s also a member of a performing band.

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