How Samara’s mentor helped her through COVID

Despite a rough start to the year, ABCN Foundation scholarship recipient Samara says she’s now finding her rhythm and feeling more confident than in previous years.  

The Year 2 Accelerate scholar is in Year 12 and completing her Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL). 

Samara is one of 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students whose scholarships were funded by Stockland over the past decade.  

Accelerate Scholar
Samara accepting her ABCN Foundation scholarship in 2019, flanked by her Nan and Mum.

‘My life before the ABCN scholarship has been a struggle,’ the 18-year-old says. ‘When I was younger, my parents and I moved around a lotand when I got to primary school, I realised that I didn’t know many things or know how to read. My parent’s separation made it worse financially, and mMum and I had to move in with my Nan.

In her application for the three-year scholarship, Samara said she hoped a mentor could be someone to ‘be there with her and help her gain confidence to get things done’. Stockland’s Teresa Maguire has been just that, she says, and more. 

‘Teresa helped me understand and set goals,’ Samara says. ‘During COVID lockdown, we met online to discuss the immediate, shortterm and longterm goals I wanted to achieve. This session has stuck with me because it was a new concept. Getting a job was one main goal because I lost my job during COVID. My longterm goal is still to buy a house. Teresreally helped me find resources and ways to make me more presentable to an employer. She helped with my resume and now I feel it is ready to hand out! 

She also helped me look deeper into what I could do in the future. I feel like my options are more open now and I realise that I don’t have to set myself on one path. I can live many different ones. 

Samara has enjoyed many proud moments since starting the program. ‘With the scholarship funds, I was able to set up a home study space, which helped me with school. The financial help is a huge weight off my family’s shoulders because my TAFE course is paid for and my school resources are covered. I can also be part of more excursions, workshops and school activities that we couldn’t afford before. My proudest moment, though, was when I was announced [as a scholar] at the ABCN end-of-year event in 2019. Being in that room and feeling so much love made me feel so honoured. 

Meanwhile, Teresa says she is looking forward to ramping up more face-to-face time after the interruptions of last year. ‘COVID definitely made it tricky as we only met once before lockdown and Samara had limited access to technology,’ Teresa says. ‘Through the scholarship, Samara was able to purchase a mobile phone data plan, which meant we could be in contact at all times.  

These are the things that many of us take for grantedExposure to the difficulties that First Nations youth face has been both eye-opening and humbling. It’s a privilege to be involved and I feel very proud to work for an organisation that wants to make such a positive impact. 

In addition to targeted scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, ABCN has also partnered with the NSW Department of Education to pilot digital GOALS programs targeting First Nations students in regional NSW. 

As for the future, Samara is looking forward to attending TAFE next year: ‘No-one in my family has gone to TAFE or university because we haven’t been able to afford the courses,’ she says. ‘I would love to start that pathway. It’s very important to me to make myself proud and my family proud. 

To her mentor, ABCN and all who have made the Accelerate program possible, Samara says: I am really grateful. Because of your help, I have more opportunities and I feel more supported. And I know it is helping so many other young people like me that really need it too. Thank you! 

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