Hawker College transition and careers officer Chontel Green makes it her business to build a relationship with as many students as possible.
One of those students, Blake Frantz, formed a particularly strong bond with Ms Green after she helped him not just scrape through but thrive during his third attempt at college in the ACT.
Mr Frantz said Ms Green was a well-loved figure around the school.
“We love Chontel. Literally, find me one kid who doesn’t know who Chontel is – you’d be hard pressed,” he said.
Ms Green said some students found “the four walls of the traditional classroom really, really challenging,” however, most of them wanted to make it work.
“When you do get to know students, you don’t meet very many that go, ‘I don’t want to do anything with my life’,” she said.
“Often they know what they want to do. But there’s this barrier.
“Or they have no idea what they want to do, and sometimes if you don’t know what you want to do, then you can’t work out what you’re working toward.”
A qualified careers advisor, Ms Green’s role has a lot of strands – meeting year 10 students to prepare them for the transition to year 11, all the way through to setting up work experience, employment opportunities and further education for graduating students.
Recognising ambition, building confidence
Ms Green was Mr Frantz’s primary contact while he decided whether to continue at Hawker College.
“When I first started out with Chontel, I had transferred colleges three times at that point, and I was very, very disengaged,” he said.
“I ended up leaving halfway through year 11, the first time, and then I started year 11 again.
“So that was kind of the transition part of her role, working with me to come into college, which was a stretch, a very big stretch.”
But even when Mr Frantz came close to backing out, Ms Green said she “knew there was a lot of ambition there”.
“I said to our deputy, ‘Don’t take him off the system; he will come back’. And he did.”
Both agreed that Mr Frantz’s first semester of his final and, ultimately, very successful journey towards a year 12 certificate was challenging.
Following in Ms Green’s footsteps, Mr Frantz worked within the transition and careers division of the ACT Education Directorate to complete a Certificate III in Business.
He said he knew administration wasn’t his passion, however, succeeding within the apprenticeship built his confidence.
“I think that’s a lot of what Chontel does, she works with kids to build that career confidence that a lot of us don’t have.”
Fee hikes ‘incredibly fear inducing’ for students from lower income households
Mr Frantz said fee hikes, unemployment statistics and economic instability rattled his confidence over the past year.
“It made me question everything,” he said.
“Because I don’t want to make career choices based on finances. That’s not fair.”
Mr Frantz said this sentiment was shared by his friends, many of whom came from lower income households.
The thought of spending $60,000 on something he initially thought would be $15-20,000 was “incredibly fear inducing”.
“It makes you think ‘Oh, well I should go and do a VET pathway’.
“But before JobTrainer, if you weren’t doing a Diploma level qualification, you had to pay out of pocket.”
For Ms Green, one of the challenges of 2020 was finding ways to engage at-risk students remotely.
“Normally, I can go and just pluck them from a classroom at the end of the lesson.
“And I think that was probably the most challenging thing, catching those students that are more at risk of the wheels falling off the wagon.”
Despite added pressure from the pandemic, Mr Frantz kept moving and finished on a high note with straight As and as a finalist for ACT Australian School-based Apprentice of the Year.
Having considered a lot of different dreams, Mr Frantz said he wanted to make helping others a career – and Ms Green helped him make it a reality.
“I want to be a social worker, so we worked out a bit of a pathway together.
“I’m actually going to university next year.
“And as a kid who doesn’t have an ATAR and somebody who took three years to finish college, that takes a lot of effort and a lot of relationships within the school to actually push that.”
Hawker College principal Andy Milson recommended Mr Frantz to the University of Canberra, and he received an offer to study under the Schools Recommendation Scheme.
For Mr Frantz, the most important relationship was with Ms Green.
“I can 100% say I would not be here, I would not be graduating if it weren’t for Chontel.
“She really is one of the greatest people in this whole system. I have so much respect for this woman.”
This story is part of the Canberra Weekly Class of 2020 series, sharing stories from inspiring young Canberrans throughout the summer.