Walking the pathway of dreams

Graduate Dannielle Roberts

The Pathways To Dreaming program has seen its first Western Sydney University graduate, Dannielle Roberts, awarded a Bachelor of Education (Primary Teaching) at April graduations. Dannielle started the program as a 16 year old from Leumeah High School and has now graduated at 25.

Pathways To Dreaming works with up to 600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students each year in grade 8 to 12. As part of the program, students are mentored by Western Sydney University students and alumni who act as older friends to support and encourage them to achieve their aspirations. The program draws on the knowledge of Aboriginal Elders and educators, connecting students to their culture and heritage.

The program has been running for eight years and engages with 26 Western Sydney high schools.

"Pathways To Dreaming gives students experiences they wouldn't otherwise have and offers the chance to meet a lot of different people, so it broadens their horizons which is always a valuable thing. University campuses become familiar places for the students where they are encouraged by mentors to set and achieve worthwhile educational and career goals," Anne McLean, Manager of Schools Engagement at Western Sydney University says.

Dannielle Roberts and Anne McLean

After leaving high school in year 11, Dannielle pursued a job in childcare but kept in contact with Ms McLean and the Pathways To Dreaming team. Growing up with six siblings nurtured her love for children and is part of the reason she is so passionate about teaching.

"I love working with children but I didn't think I was good enough to go on to university—it was just something I never thought I would be able to achieve," she says.

Dannielle believes the program was the reason she went on to receive further education.

"I'm so thankful they kept in touch with me and encouraged me to keep studying. I truly believe everything happens for a reason so if I never joined the program I would never have been able to become a teacher," she says.

"It was a very happy moment to be able to watch Dannielle graduate. We try to keep in contact with our students at university and encourage them to become mentors themselves so they can build their skills whilst helping new cohorts of Aboriginal school students," Ms McLean says.

During her time at university, Dannielle was a Pathways to Dreaming mentor where she guided high school students through a position she was once in.

"It was rewarding for me to see these students go through the program just like I did because I could be an example and talk with them about my university experience."

She has now begun teaching fulltime at Oran Park Primary school.

"To walk straight into this teaching opportunity right after university shows me that anything is possible and graduating is an example of that."

Anne says there will be at least six more Pathways To Dreaming participants graduating this year.

ENDS.

28 April 2017

Jessica Cortis, Media Assistant