High school students from rural Ungarie have experienced life and work in Sydney as part of UNSW’s first residential work experience program for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Established by the ASPIRE program, a social inclusion initiative that actively promotes university to high school students from low socio-economic backgrounds, the residency gave nine Year 9 and 10 students from Ungarie Central School in central west NSW the opportunity to explore university and gain work experience. Year 7 and 8 students also attended the week-long program and experienced university for the first time.

Ungarie is one of 10 regional schools assisted by the Regional ASPIRE program which addresses the unique challenges students from rural backgrounds face when considering higher education.

The placement program is designed to expand options and offer practical advice and assistance for rural students by exposing them to careers and training unavailable in their region.

 “I wouldn’t have thought of coming to university before ASPIRE, I didn’t even know what university was,” said 15 year-old Renae Bradley, who plans to study zoology since completing work experience with Channel 10’s celebrity vet, Dr Chris Brown.

“No one in my family has ever been to university, but now I know how ASPIRE can help me, it doesn’t seem so hard.”

Head teacher of Secondary Studies at Ungarie Central School, Adam Currey, said ASPIRE has offered his students “ incredible opportunities” since it partnered with the school two years ago.

“We only had four kids in Year 12 this year, but thanks to ASPIRE, all of them have applied to study at university – that’s never happened before,” said Currey.

ASPIRE currently works with 30 NSW secondary, primary, and regional schools and has assisted several thousand students since its inception in 2007. University offers were made to 445 students who attended ASPIRE-partnered schools in 2011.

 ASPIRE Director, Ann Jardine, says the program allows students to make an informed decision about the future.

 “This is about giving students choices who have previously felt that they have none. The most important thing is for more Australian children, no matter where they live, or what their background is, to have the opportunity to know what a university education could mean in their lives.”

 Media contact: Fran Strachan | fran.strachan@unsw.edu.au | 9385 8732 | 04294 16070