Completing high school is a major achievement but for teenagers facing obstacles on their education journey, the thought of finishing Year 12 can sometimes seem unattainable.
Zalie, TeHana and Mariah are three of 14 students who will graduate from a unique school on Brisbane’s southside this week – and they’re all mothers.
Falling pregnant as teenagers threatened to derail their education but the trio had a second chance at schooling at Carinity Education Southside. The only school of its kind in Queensland is dedicated to supporting students to overcome significant barriers to education.
Young mums can continue their education in the classroom while their children are cared for at an on-site early learning centre for babies and toddlers, operated by Search Light, located at the all-girls school.
Zalie, 19, enrolled at the special assistance school at Sunnybank after giving birth to her son, now aged two-and-a-half.
“I had trouble trying to get work and I thought that the only real opportunity that I had was to try and get back into school, but no schools could cater to me and my son except for Carinity,” Zalie said.
“I actually went to two different state high schools and both couldn’t help me in terms of my learning and emotional wellbeing, whereas at this school the support team were able to help me reach my potential and guide me in the right direction.
“I’ve felt extremely privileged and honoured to be here. I don’t feel like I’m different. Nobody here judges me for being a mum but at other schools they would have. I can still go about my day being a mum, a student and an individual.”
After completing a Certificate IV in Business with the support of Carinity Education Southside, Zalie plans to volunteer at the school next year to “help out the community the same way that they helped me”.
Mother to a 13-month-old daughter, TeHana says the support of Carinity Education Southside, its teachers and youth workers “has been like nothing else”.
“The day care picks us up and takes us home so it’s easy to get to and from school and the learning support is great too. I always knew I was going to finish school but without Carinity it would have been a lot harder, and I would have struggled more,” TeHana said.
Now the 17-year-old aspires to work as a doula, assisting women during and after childbirth and “helping younger mums to have positive birth experiences”.
Fellow graduating student Mariah took a break from school to give birth to twins late last year. When the 19-year-old returned to school the transition was made easier by the support she received.
“When I returned to school from pregnancy the school welcomed me back with open arms and were really supportive. They told me if anyone could do this, I could, which meant a lot to me,” Mariah said.
“The school is like my family and my biggest support network, it’s really amazing. I honestly did not expect to be here and about to graduate from school. It’s massive for me. It’s good to finally get to the finish line.”
Around 50 students from four Carinity Education special assistance schools – in Brisbane, Hervey Bay, Gladstone and Rockhampton – will graduate this Friday.