‘One of the best jobs a 15-year-old could ask for’: the students benefiting from ABCN programs

Alula Abraha is still working at Optus three years after getting a foot in the door through an ABCN program. His success story was one of many told at ABCN end-of-year celebrations around the country last month.

Alula Abraha
Alula Abraha (in centre) at ABCN’s 2019 end-of-year celebration in Brisbane.


When Alula Abraha scored a casual job with Optus through the ABCN Pathways 2 Employment program three years ago, he said he was ‘so young customers thought that I was the manager’s child’. He told the audience at last month’s ABCN Queensland’s end-of-year celebration that it was ‘one the best jobs a 15-year-old could probably ask for in terms of experience and fun’.

Today, Alula is still at Optus working part-time as a sales consultant while studying accounting and law. He described how three ABCN programs helped him get to where he is now. Through GOALS he learned to set targets for his assignments and he uses the same concept at work now. Through Aspirations his mentor got him thinking about pairing an accounting degree with a second degree in law. And through Pathways 2 Employment, he had the networking opportunities he needed to impress his future employers at Optus.

‘This year I participated in an ABCN program again, though this time I was the mentor,’ he said. Through Optus, he joined the GOALS program with Mabel Park State High School. ‘I had reservations about being a mentor as I felt I was too inexperienced, however I developed a sense of satisfaction from knowing that I’ve helped someone in the same position I was in.’

Alula’s story was one of many told by students at ABCN end-of-year celebrations around the country last month. The events – held in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide – were also the occasions to formally recognise this year’s incoming 2019 ABCN Foundation scholars. This year’s cohort comprises 31 exceptional students who will receive a three-year scholarship package made up of corporate mentoring as well as financial assistance.

At the Sydney event, outgoing scholar Duyen Tran told the NSW scholars how wonderful it had been for her to be paired with mentor Linda Kelleher over the previous three years. When they met, Duyen’s biggest worry was her English. So Linda, a lawyer who was working for MinterEllison at the time, offered to check her schoolwork. ‘Without her dedication, I don’t think I would now be on the way to reaching my dream of becoming a primary school teacher,’ Duyen told the Sydney audience. ‘She really made a difference in my life!’

That difference extended to deeply emotional matters. Duyen shared a story of bursting into tears during one phone conversation with Linda. She was upset that a new friend during her first year of university was taking advantage of her course work. Linda complimented Duyen on her loyalty to friends but assured her that it’s okay to let friends go if they’re not the right ones.

‘So even though Linda is now in Tasmania, she’s always on the other end of the phone, listening to every word I have to say,’ Duyen said, before congratulating the 14 NSW scholars about to receive their awards. ‘I can tell you, having a mentor is great. Let them help you, motivate you, guide you, and be an inspiration for you as they were for me.’


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