Lessons On Girlhood From A Skyline Education Foundation Mentor and Alumna

by Life at MECCA M-POWER
Thursday 31 August 2023

M-POWERED Collective organisation Skyline Education Foundation provides intensive support for high-ability students in Victoria through the last two years of their secondary education.

Founded in 2004, the Skyline Program is the first of its kind in Australia, offering financial, educational, and emotional support to students – many of whom come from single parent households or are facing financial or social barriers. Skyline provides them with opportunities to pursue both study and employment options.

It’s a program that works. 480 students have been supported since the program’s inception.  In 2021 96% of the girls who completed the Skyline Program went on to tertiary study. Over 50% scored an ATAR of 80 or above. And 85% of Skyline students entered university following Year 12. 

Here, Skyline alumna and now mentor Holly Wu shares her greatest lessons on girlhood…

Growing up as the eldest daughter of a migrant family, I became aware early on that many things would ride on my shoulders, namely supporting my parents and setting an example for my younger sister…

I owe so much of my confidence to my dear family, friends, teachers, and the brilliant Skyline community which has supported me since Year 11. Watching my parents work tirelessly to provide for us taught me the value of hard work and perseverance in pursuing my aspirations, no matter what others may say or think of them. 

Next to family, my education was a powerful and empowering gateway to gaining confidence not only in an academic sense, but also emotionally. Whilst learning to trust my own academic capabilities, I also learnt to value my own ideas and opinions. The domino effect of this on my public speaking, decision-making and interpersonal relationships was tremendous! Although it took time, moments of discomfort and lots of risk-taking, I could not be happier to have taken those steps as I now have more faith in myself and my power.

“Next to family, my education was a powerful and empowering gateway to gaining confidence not only in an academic sense, but also emotionally. Whilst learning to trust my own academic capabilities, I also learnt to value my own ideas and opinions.”

- Holly Wu, Skyline mentor

One of my most challenging experiences as a woman was being recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer…

It was a profound shock which turned aspects of my daily life upside down. Initially, I felt overwhelmed by the weight of uncertainty and the fear of the unknown. To add to that, I felt isolation kick in at times and get the better of me. Yet, through this hardship, I have come to discover strength and resilience I never knew existed. I’m incredibly thankful for the relentless support from loved ones and medical care from the inspirational professionals at the Royal Women’s Hospital which have helped me handle the physical and emotional challenges of the diagnosis.

I deeply cherish the mentors in my life…

It has been both relieving and motivating to connect with and learn from women, especially those from disenfranchised backgrounds. My mentors have shown me that success is attainable and that I am worth the work I put into myself. Aside from invaluable advice on how to navigate my career journey, education and personal development, mentoring offered me a safe environment to inquire and gain insight through the wisdom of those I look up to. Thanks to my mentors, I know that it’s okay to struggle and that no matter which point I may start from, my dreams are valid and attainable.

I adored studying French and Chemistry in high school because the former satisfied my fondness for communication, and the latter satisfied my love for understanding how things work…

Regarding French, I think it's one of the coolest things in the world to be able to convey ideas and connect with people through a different system of sounds and symbols. I learnt ways of seeing the world through a different lens – it’s my goal to one day travel and become a culturally well-versed global citizen. As for chemistry, nothing felt more gratifying in class than having one of those light bulb moments where a concept finally clicks. I enjoyed solving problems both theoretically on a whiteboard as well as in practical experiments. By engaging with the material hands-on, chemistry fostered my curiosity and gave me a tangible way of understanding abstract ideas and objects we don’t necessarily get to interact with on a day-to-day basis.

School, especially the final two years, can be immensely difficult and demanding, especially since it coincided with a pivotal time in my life during which I was figuring out my identity and facing the intimidation which came with deciding what to do after high school.

My best tip is to find your study-life balance by pursuing passions and hobbies which don't necessarily have to do with the things you study. I deeply regret neglecting activities which in fact enriched my brain and rejuvenated me under the excuse of “not having enough time”. It took me a little too long to realise that actively seeking time to yourself helps relieve academic stress, improves mental health, and helps you identify what fulfills you. 

Mentoring Skyline students is one of the highlights of my involvement with Skyline…

All aspects of mentorship at Skyline have been meaningful and multi-faceted - from getting to know the young women upon entrance to the program, to tutoring and providing academic support, to working alongside them once they graduate! As a mentor of many past Skyline experiences, such as the Annual Residential Experience and NGV Masterclass, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to learn about the lives of young adults navigating modern obstacles in an ever-changing world and play a part in cultivating the next generation of changemakers, leaders and activists. Three years after graduating from Skyline, I’m still driven by my desire to witness these girls grow and find themselves as well as giving back to the community whose guidance and mentorship were an integral contribution to my growth.

To find out more about Skyline Education Foundation, visit skylinefoundation.org.au