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"Well what now?" Supporting young people with education and school choices

 

Luke Wade is an Education and Career Specialist at Redkite's Brisbane office. For more than five years he has worked with 15-24 year olds who've had a cancer diagnosis at any age, to help them identify and achieve their work and study goals. 
 

How is what you do different from the role of a social worker, or a guidance officer?

This role has elements of both those jobs, but we work specifically with young people who either have cancer, or have had it in the past. We appreciate a lot of the unique issues that these people often face. Everyone in my team has a lot of knowledge about how the healthcare system works, what treatment involves, we understand late effects. And we know about the different pathways that can get people into the jobs, study and training that they want. 
 
We're very driven by the strengths and values of the person we're working with. Our role can be a bit like a mentor - having someone experienced to walk alongside you as you find your own way. 
 

What are some of the common issues that young people who have had cancer face when it comes to school or uni? 

Coming to the end of treatment is a big one for a lot of people. You go from this highly structured environment where everything's done for you and to you, then you're back out in the 'real world' and there are a heap of decisions to be made. A lot of people think, 'Well what now?'. It can be helpful to have someone there to explore your options with you. Are your goals the same? Are the same things important to you? Has your relationship with your parents or partner changed, and does this affect what you want to do?
 
We support people in their dealings with school, colleges or universities. This could be working together with teachers or guidance officers around adjusting study loads or applying for special consideration. We can help people apply to get into courses and we can still help them once they're there, by acting as an advocate. Basically we want to make sure that cancer doesn't get in the way of a fulfilling education or work life. 
 

What about the workplace?

A lot of our work here is around supporting and educating employers. Many have never had an employee living with cancer, or its effects. They want to do the right thing but often don't have the knowledge. So we do things like working out the best ways to keep the employer in the loop regarding appointments, negotiating time off, requesting adjustments to the workplace.  
 
For people who are looking to enter the workforce, or rejoin after time off for treatment, we can help out with CV and cover letter writing, job hunting and interview tips, including how to talk about that gap in your CV. 
 

Can you talk us through a couple of examples of young people that you've worked with? 

I worked with a young guy who had missed most of Year 10 because of treatment. He had been planning to do a sport and recreation apprenticeship through his school, but after his time away, wasn't so sure any more. I met with him and his school guidance officer. Through a few chats, we worked out that the issue wasn't really the area of study, it was that his peers had moved on, and some teachers he had a good rapport with had also left. We agreed that a fresh start was in order, and together with his family we identified an alternative school that offered the same Cert II qualification training. He feels a lot more confident and is looking forward to getting stuck in next year. And he knows he can always text me if he wants to talk anything through. 
 
Another example is a young woman who had just completed a Science degree, with exceptionally high results. She was in the processing of commencing another degree in Medicine when she was diagnosed. When her treatment finished she questioned whether she was really up the demands of another full-time degree, but felt she didn't want to 'let down' her parents. We spoke a lot about having open conversations, dealing with academic pressure, and also looking after your mental as well as physical health. For now, she's decided to take a part-time job and defer her uni for a bit longer, while she decides how she'd like to proceed. 
 
For both these clients, it was great to help them see that their cancer experience didn't have to close off opportunities. There were other options available to them. I think that's one of the most important parts of what my role offers - helping people see there are many ways to achieve your goals, and also that it's okay to change your mind about where you're going and how you get there. 
 

Interested in chatting with one of our Education & Career Specialists? Get in touch at support@redkite.org.au or 1800 REDKITE (1800 733 548).