Main Image: Lucy, a refugee from Ivory Coast, will graduate from Carinity Education Southside in Sunnybank on November 20. (Supplied)
Following an academic year like no other, schools around Queensland are set to farewell their latest cohort of Year 12 students.
But few students have had to overcome as many barriers to education as 17- year-old Lucy.
Being a young mum, having English as a second language and not having family around to support her were challenges Lucy had to overcome to finish school.
Following a traumatic upbringing in Africa, Lucy came to Australia from Ivory Coast as an unaccompanied refugee in 2011 and commenced at Carinity Education Southside this year.
She is one of 11 students from the female-only independent education school at Sunnybank, the only school of its kind in Queensland, who will graduate on November 20.
Carinity Education Southside provides education, vocational training and mentoring for students having difficulty succeeding in traditional schools.
The school aims to remove the barriers some females face in accessing education. It helps with meals, a flexible curriculum, and a school cre?che for students who are mothers.
“I felt accepted at Carinity. They helped me to be proud of being a mother. There was no judgement about being pregnant when I got here,” says Lucy, a mother of two.
“Southside is a very supportive school and will do all they can to help a student cope with school and life.”
While completing high school is an achievement many graduating students once thought might not be possible, Lucy was always confident she could thrive in a supportive school environment.
“I always knew I would finish high school because there is more opportunity for school than in my country, so I took advantage of that,” Lucy said.
As well as overcoming barriers to education, Lucy and her fellow students had to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19 in their senior year.
For several months, students learned remotely with school youth workers delivering schoolwork, empowering students to continue their learning from home during the coronavirus shutdown.
Carinity Education Southside is one of four special assistance schools around Queensland run by Brisbane-based not-for-profit Carinity, with the others being at Hervey Bay, Rockhampton and Gladstone.