A NEW program has set a target of increasing the amount of Indigenous students who attain their HSCs by 50 per cent by 2023, and Tamworth's Casey Howard is hoping to play a major role in achieving that.
A proud Kamilaroi woman, Ms Howard is a mother and former teacher, who will now work as a community connector based out of the Tamworth Local Aboriginal Lands Council.
The Community Connector initiative will see Ms Howard work with students who are currently in year 10, right through until their year 12 HSCs.
"It's not a dump and run program, I'm going to be following these students all the way through so they're going to have this continual support," she said.
"So it's not saying 'hey I've done my job and got you to school', its not about that, it's me following through.
"These families may come in and out of the program but they'll know I'm going to be constantly there for them as a support person and connecting them."
One of the most important aspects of the program, though, is ensuring the students don't lose touch with their culture.
Education, connectedness to country, culture and community are all important according to Ms Howard.
"Together, these contribute to better learning, employment, and health outcomes for our young Aboriginal people," she said.
"Aboriginal cultural values underpin the initiative in which is funded by the NSW Department of Education (DoE)."
As part of the role, she will meet with students, discuss what their future aspirations are and help them create a personalised roadmap of how to achieve their goals, and how that ties in with their education and post-school life.
One of her main focuses will be ensuring students remain engaged at school, and to reduce Indigenous truancy rates which, like the rest of the population, have increased in Tamworth in recent years.
She said her focus will be mostly "outside of the gates" but will be looking to meet the schools half way to improve attendance numbers.
The Community Connector initiative is led by the Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations as part of the 'premier's priority' on Aboriginal education and culture in partnership with the DoE and cabinet.
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