Jade Norton

With active branches in over 500 communities around Australia run by 13000 staff and 3,500 volunteers, it’s easy to see why some might be tempted to think about the Y on a macro level. But it’s the every-day interactions taking place at the micro level that are the true reflection of the Y’s impact on Australian Youth.

Jade Norton, a graduate of the Y’s Kingston Vocation School is a living, breathing example of how the Y’s everyday work is changing lives and inspiring young people around the country.

Jade didn’t have an easy start in life. Failed by the foster care system, Jade began couch surfing at just 13. In spite of her unstable living situation, Jade’s commitment to her education was unwavering.  “I had the drive to do something and become someone. To do that you need an education,” says Jade.

However, even with such strong conviction Jade quickly became disenchanted with the traditional education system. Constantly worried about where her next meal would come from and without access to the facilities needed to wash her school uniform, Jade could hardly focus on her studies. Completely out of options and almost ready to give up, Jade applied for financial support through Centrelink, where she was pointed in the direction of the Y’s Kingston Vocational School in Brisbane.

For Jade, the school provided exactly what she needed, not just an education, but a real support network. “They genuinely care about their students, it’s not just a school, it’s a family,” says Jade.

Jade’s education began to improve, but her living conditions still proved detrimental to both her wellbeing and academic performance. When the school’s resident Y social worker Iona Wylie discovered exactly how rough Jade had been living, she knew something had to be done.

“When I first sat down with Jade, she was coming out of class and was very upset. In class they were talking about what foods they liked and Jade hadn’t eaten for a couple of days,” Iona recalls, “At that time, she was living in a windowless caravan. It had been raining for two weeks, everything was soaked and there were cockroaches everywhere. She showed me bite marks on her legs.”

Iona took action immediately, using her experience with the department of housing to secure housing and support for Jade.  With Iona by her side every step of the way, and the full support of the Y behind her, Jade was provided with one of the Y’s Affordable Housing units.

With a safe and stable home, Jade was finally able to focus on her studies, graduating year 12 as Student of the Year among other accolades. Jade now works as an apprentice with the Logan City Council and remains a strong advocate for the pursuit of education through any obstacle.

“I can focus on me now, and not just everything else that was going on in my life,” says Jade, “I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the Y.”

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