Based in Doonside, in Sydney’s western suburbs, Eagles RAPS was formed in 1997 by members of the local community and spearheaded by Marten and Sally Wynd. Its initial intention was to provide a centre where local teenagers could go to participate in recreational activities and get access to support services if they were facing issues at home, in school, or elsewhere.

Then, in 2001, the organisation started to offer young people who could not access formal education, or were struggling to cope within the confines of that system, the opportunity to complete their formal education – equivalent to Year 10 at a school. This was prompted by a request from two young boys who had experienced difficulties within the school system which consequently led to no school in the area being willing to offer them a spot.

At the graduation, Amazon Web Services (AWS) took a moment to talk to Catherine, a 15-year-old from nearby Rooty Hill, who came to Eagles RAPS during the 2022 Easter Holidays looking for a way to attain vocational qualifications, while juggling a challenging home environment. We learnt more about her journey, her aspirations, and the transformative work Eagles RAPS delivers for teenagers across Western Sydney.

Despite having a history of academic success, in late high school, Catherine’s social anxiety had started to impact her grades. As she began having trouble interacting and socialising with her peers, Catherine started to fall behind at school, which was exacerbated when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a result, Catherine took on carer responsibilities, which impacted further on her school results. She needed help.

“My sister and my cousins have previously completed courses through Eagles RAPS. They told me it was a different option, which would allow me to focus on attaining vocational qualifications, and help me better manage my time with my home responsibilities,” explained Catherine.

“One of the main benefits has been the ability to focus better, and I feel more comfortable here at Eagles RAPS. We are taught in smaller groups, so it’s not as crowded, and I can better concentrate on what the educators are teaching us.”

While Catherine still prefers her own company, she’s now a lot more comfortable talking to people. It’s a huge step forward for her in terms of her personal development, in addition to the educational benefits the program has provided.

“There’s definitely help available here. At school, I sometimes struggled to be noticed, which is problematic when you have social anxiety, as you don’t really want to draw attention to yourself in that way. Here at Eagles RAPS, I can ask as many questions as I like, and there is always someone on hand to offer guidance and support.”

Catherine is now graduating from the Eagles RAPS program, with Certifications I and II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways, and only a few units left on a Certificate III in Information Communication Technology (ICT). Catherine’s attention is now firmly focused on further education and a career, which seemed improbable earlier in the year when she was struggling balance her home responsibilities with attending school regularly, and finishing her studies.

“I want to do my Certificate IV in Information technology (IT) course next. After that I am hoping to get a job in the IT industry, perhaps even with AWS,” said Catherine.

Catherine has a few words of advice for other young people who are looking for alternative study options and considering joining next year’s intake at Eagles RAPS.

“I would definitely say try to get into Eagles RAPS if you’re in a situation similar to me. I found the program easier and less stressful, which meant I could focus on getting results. And the Eagles RAPS team are on hand go give you all the help you need, when you need it,

Eagles RAPS program coordinator, Sally Wynd, said Catherine’s story, and the progress she has made – both personally and from an educational perspective – exemplifies what Eagles RAPS is all about.

“We started out as a place where young people could find support to help them overcome challenges they were facing, as well as having somewhere fun to hang out with other people they could relate to. We added the educational element to what we do, which has been a great success and has grown, but we have never lost sight of that initial objective. It’s heartening to hear stories such as Catherine’s which highlights not only the educational aspects of her progress, but the social benefits she has gained from participating in the program.”

Michelle Hardie, Head of Strategy and Operations at AWS, echoed Sally’s sentiments about Catherine, and the rest of the honour roll of graduates from the class of 2022.

“It is a privilege to work with our local communities and enable them to provide skills training and development to people from diverse and socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Stories like Catherine’s remind us of the fantastic role Eagles RAPS plays in setting on a path to an exciting career in tech. We look forward to seeing the future success the class of 2022 in the coming years. Who knows, we may even be welcoming a few of them as new recruits at AWS in the next few years.”

Yesterday, AWS InCommunities announced it is extending its support to Eagles RAPS for 2023. Through our collaboration, AWS will support more than 20 students through various levels of accredited certification, including Certificates in Information Technology. This is the fourth year AWS InCommunities is sponsoring the Eagles RAPS skill training program.