ABCN changed my life

A simple coin left an important impact on ABCN alumni Yasmina Elmerkhaoui, who now works full-time as a social media influencer with an online following of almost 95,000.

‘I was someone who was nervous in front of a crowd and Lisa, my ABCN mentor when I was 15, gave me a coin. Her advice was to focus on holding it tight when I spoke instead of focusing on the people around,’ Yasmina recalls.

‘It’s advice that I’ve kept with me forever.’

Yasmina Elmerkhaoui speaking at a women’s networking event in Melbourne.

Yasmina took part in the ABCN GOALS program with Microsoft in 2012. As a Year 10 student at Glenroy College in Melbourne’s north, Yasmina thought she didn’t have much to learn but recalls being surprised how much valuable one-on-one time she was able to spend with her mentor.

‘I remember going into the city to meet all of these businesspeople. It was just so cool to see people who were so successful,’ she says.

Yasmina went on to become school captain and found herself regularly speaking in front of a crowd at assemblies.

Since high school, Yasmina, found on Instagram under the handle @mrs.yasmina, has built a full-time business as a social media influencer including regular posts about the realities of being a mother to two children under five. She is part way through studying psychology.

‘It’s advice that I’ve kept with me forever.’

‘It’s crazy to think that something so many years ago would stick with you, but it goes to show it can and does shape who you are,’ Yasmina, 26, says of her ABCN participation.

‘Years later when I started my social media account and I started speaking in front of the camera daily and turned it into a career, I always thought of what my mentor taught me.

‘We go to school to learn so much but a skill like confidence is something that’s not focused on enough.

‘I wish more schools ran these programs for the kids. I can only hope that the schools my kids go to has a program similar to it.’

Yasmina’s confidence beyond social media is just as strong and in July she hosted an in-person women’s empowerment event to encourage networking for women with an online platform. She sees the event as one of her proudest career moments so far.

She also worked on a paid partnership with McDonald’s, creating ads for the 2022 McHappy Day campaign. Having worked at the chain in high school, the opportunity was special.

Yasmina Elmerkhaoui still has the coin, nametag and notes from her ABCN program 10 years ago.

Her advice for young students? Never be afraid of standing out or taking a different path to those around you.

‘If you can remain who you are that’s the most important,’ she says. ‘It was only when I allowed myself to be who I am that I reached my full potential.’

Yasmina still has the coin 10 years on, tucked into an envelope with her name tag and student speech from the session. She says while she no longer needs it to help her feel confident, it is a powerful reminder of how far she has come.

Yasmina is one of more than 60,000 students who have been mentored since ABCN was founded in 2005.

To read about the long-term impact ABCN programs have had on other students, read our new Careers in the Making: A follow up study of ABCN mentees 10 years on research below.

 Click to read the full report.
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