THERE is more than one pathway for students to finish their schooling, and the new Indigenous-led NASCA programs in Kempsey have been proving just that.
The National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy (NASCA) has been running programs at Melville and Kempsey high schools to help students connect to culture, support their academic achievement, and succeed in school.
Rosie Fatnowna works as a program lead supporting young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women at Melville High School.
"It's been a tough year for our girls. We did everything we could to support them during lockdown, but there is nothing like building that face-to-face relationship," Rosie said.
"That's what really makes a difference. It's so good to be back inside the school gates with them."
Starting with NASCA earlier this year, Rosie believes it's all about supporting the students individually so they can make strong choices.
This holistic support proved beneficial with semester 1 attendance for Aboriginal secondary students enrolled in NASCA at Kempsey High School and Melville High School at 85 per cent; significantly higher than the state average of 76.6 per cent.
Student at Melville High School, Jorja Egar-Hoskins, was excited to be graduating.
"I'm proud to be one of 63 NASCA students graduating high school this year. Next year I'm planning on going to university to study policing so that I can help out our community who need it most,"Jorja said.
"I hope that I can get the opportunity to find the best ways to get into university to help me on my path to success."
Proud Yuin woman and NASCA national program director, Skye Parsons, said every student they are able to support is another step towards real equity in education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
"We know that creating safe spaces at school, helping our students to connect to culture, and supporting them academically is what is needed for our students," Ms Parsons said.
"Whether they want to go to university, or do a trade - it's our job to make sure they are able to take that next step."
NASCA provides various opportunities for young people, including camps, conferences, school holiday activities, and other leadership activities.
November 9 also marks the beginning of the HSC for year 12 students around the state.
On the Mid North Coast, which takes in the regions of Great Lakes, Kempsey-Nambucca, Port Macquarie, Taree and Gloucester, there are 1682 students enrolled in one or more HSC courses.
They join 76,399 other year 12 students completing exams with the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) issuing a revised timetable, with 110 exams taking place over 19 days, ending on December 3.
The first exam to tick off the list today is English.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the cohort "are some of the most resilient students we have ever seen".
"The past 18 months have been challenging, but I know that HSC students across the state will walk into their exams (on Tuesday) determined to smash their goals," she said.
"We are all behind the Class of 2021 as they head towards the finish line."
The state's Delta outbreak also blew out the exam timetable, with written exams pushed back and major project deadlines extended.
ATAR results are out on January 20 and HSC results will be released on January 24, 2022.
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