THE SCHOOL LEAVER

QantasLink Sprit - - Special Report -

RE­LIEVED TO have fi­nal ex­ams and un­happy school days be­hind her, an 18-year-old Me­gan Pearce packed her bags for Europe – leav­ing her home town of Al­bury, NSW, and the weight of ex­pec­ta­tion be­hind her.

Es­chew­ing the idea of fur­ther study, Me­gan roamed the globe for two years, un­de­cided on her next move. “I hated high school and never wanted to go to uni,“says the 25-year-old, who is now study­ing at La Trobe Univer­sity’s Al­bury-Wodonga cam­pus.

“Back then I felt a lot of pres­sure. The gen­eral mind­set was that to suc­ceed in life, you had to go to uni. I felt then, and I still do, that there are many paths to be­ing suc­cess­ful. You can go to TAFE, you can get an ap­pren­tice­ship; we can’t all be doc­tors and lawyers.”

Her change of heart about univer­sity came af­ter a short stint work­ing as an elec­tri­cal ap­pren­tice. She fi­nally de­cided to tackle a Bach­e­lor of Arts (BA) when she saw an ad for La Trobe in the lo­cal pa­per.

No-one was more sur­prised than Me­gan when she found her­self fall­ing in love with study. “I found a pas­sion for learn­ing. In a BA, you learn a broad range of skills to in­crease your em­ploy­a­bil­ity,” she ex­plains. “I learned about art his­tory, Aus­tralian his­tory, English lit­er­a­ture, phi­los­o­phy, psy­chol­ogy and so­ci­ol­ogy, and it opened up a realm that I never knew was there – as well as a new way of look­ing at the world.”

Me­gan has now taken on a Mas­ter of So­cial Work, with a mul­ti­tude of ca­reer op­tions re­veal­ing them­selves as she edges closer to the fin­ish line.

Her in­volve­ment in lo­cal youth or­gan­i­sa­tions dur­ing her ed­u­ca­tion has seen her lead­er­ship skills flour­ish. An of­fer to join the board of lo­cal foodres­cue op­er­a­tion Al­bury Wodonga Re­gional FoodShare has, in turn, given her clar­ity about the fu­ture.

“Through my in­volve­ment in com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions, I learned a whole range of new skills, such as con­flict res­o­lu­tion, project man­age­ment and how to lis­ten,” she says. “In the end, I’ll be an ac­cred­ited so­cial worker and I can work in men­tal health, a hos­pi­tal or a wel­fare agency. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less.”

Me­gan says her ties to the com­mu­nity were the main rea­son why she de­cided to study in her home town: “There are just so many op­por­tu­ni­ties to be in­volved and to make a dif­fer­ence here. This is a place that has given me so much and it’s good to be able to give back.

“And it’s good to know your ATAR [Aus­tralian Ter­tiary Ad­mis­sion Rank] does not de­fine you. There is al­ways a path­way to get where you want to go.”

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