When asked what motivates her, Armidale local and University of New England student Balie McCormack, doesn't hesitate.
"I want to be somebody I needed when I was younger. Someone to trust, someone you go to for advice and a positive role model to younger people," she says.
Balie's journey towards tertiary education had an inauspicious start but is firm testament to her determination and ability to grow and rise to new challenges.
"I was in year 8 when I was called to the principal's office and told that BackTrack had introduced a girl's program one day per week," Balie said.
Balie was familiar with BackTrack and the work it did with teenagers who were having a hard time and who would otherwise fall through the cracks, as her uncle was one of the first to go through the program.
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"BackTrack got me out of my comfort zone and I started public speaking. My first public speaking event was in front of approximately 250 people at the Armidale Bowling Club when I was 15," she said.
"Since then, I have been to the Governor-General's house and Parliament House for public speaking. I have also been given the opportunity to go to London for a conference at the end of the year."
Participation in the BackTrack program, and feeling confident and motivated after attending several UNE Experience Days, convinced Balie to pursue her dream of enrolling in a Bachelor in Social Work.
"After some convincing and a lot of thought I decided to enrol in TRACKS, UNE's tertiary preparation program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students," she said.
"I had missed so much of my education I wouldn't have been able to cope by just jumping straight in to a bachelor degree."
Two months into her TRACKS program, Balie was also awarded a Commencing Student Oorala Support Package, which included a Dell laptop. It was a big deal for her as she had been using her mobile phone do her assignments on.
"I thought that if I stuck with my studies something good will come out of it. Even if I must do it on my phone. I thought about people not having the opportunity to go to university and that at least I had something I could access the assignments and the resources on," Balie said.
Under the TRACKS program, Balie also receives targeted tutorial assistance from the Oorala Aboriginal Centre whenever she needs it.
"The team are always friendly and supportive. I really enjoy the TRACKS programs and 100 per cent recommend it to anyone who wants to enrol for a university degree," she said.
UNE Experience Days are run by the Oorala Aboriginal Centre exclusively for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The students visit one or two academic areas, attend lectures and engage with staff and students to get a taste of university life.
- The University of New England is a commercial partner in the Future Focus project.