When Aiden, now 15, first started school he was a strong reader, but in a few short years he fell behind in class. His family didn't have much money, so they relied on the uniform pool for his school clothes. When the other kids saw his faded uniforms, they teased him, and Aiden began to lose confidence and retreat into himself.
"Aiden used to come home and be quite upset," his mother, Kiara, says. "When you're a kid in a younger age group and you're already wearing faded uniforms, you get teased."At a time when Aiden was feeling overwhelmed, The Smith Family intervened. "I was able to get back on track. I could look decent at school … I could concentrate on my learning," he says.
Aiden and his brother Bailey, now 13, were sponsored and put through a home-based reading program: student2student. They are now both flourishing. Aiden says being sponsored changed everything. "Before The Smith Family, it was difficult to learn at school," he explains. "I was able to get back on track." Having a sponsor meant Aiden no longer felt like he was alone. "It makes me feel like I'm not the only one out there," he says.
Bailey benefited from intervention at a younger age. Kiara says when he started kindergarten he couldn't read or write, but finished ahead of the class. "By the end of kindergarten, he was doing maths with Year 1 kids."
Now, the brothers have become leaders within their school community. Aiden helped to create an Aboriginal student committee at school. Bailey is also a founding member. "You've got some Aboriginal kids going down the wrong path around my age, so I want to open them up to culture. I want them to succeed," Aiden says. He also aspires to set up an Aboriginal culinary school that will provide a space for Aboriginal kids like him to connect with their culture through food.
The Smith Family CEO Dr Lisa O'Brien says the pandemic highlighted the importance of programs like student2student. "The impact of the pandemic has confirmed the need for the whole community to work together to tackle issues of equality and disadvantage," she says.
With the support of The Smith Family, Aiden and Bailey are now set to be the first in their family to graduate from high school. "Without a sponsor, I might have had to repeat a grade; I could have dropped out," Bailey says. Kiara adds: "Having that little bit of hope, it breaks the cycle."
The Smith Family is a national charity helping young Australians to get the most out of their education, so they can create better futures.
Brought to you by The Smith Family.