Aleesha had been out of school for six months when police found her on the city streets.
The 12-year-old had travelled to the city with friends for a night out. That night out spiralled into weeks of rough sleeping.
"I was never going back to my old school, even though there was pressure from everyone," she said.
But her views on education changed when she met Helen Smith, a teacher at Western Port Secondary College in Hastings.
Ms Smith runs the school's successful outreach program, an initiative that involves teachers knocking on the doors of disengaged students and running classes in local libraries, McDonald's and at kitchen tables in family homes.
The aim is to get students to go to school, on their own terms, or get them engaged with external training programs.
"These students are craving recognition from adults," Ms Smith says.
The program has been credited with boosting the disadvantaged school's real retention rate from 37 per cent to 67 per cent in just three years.
This means 67 per cent of students who start at the school in Year 7 are still there in Year 12.
The initiative is financed through equity funding from the state government, which aims to break the cycle of disadvantage.
New figures released exclusively to Fairfax Media show that more than 2800 new staff have been added to state schools since the funding boost in 2015.
This includes 1600 teachers and 1200 support staff such as literacy and numeracy coaches, social workers and speech pathologists.
Principal Michael Devine said his school had also used $1.1 million in annual equity funding to run literacy and numeracy intervention programs, initiatives to track students' learning and attendance, and programs at the school's state-of-the-art science technology engineering and maths centre.
These initiatives have helped lift the school's VCE results from a median study score of 22 in 2014 to 26 last year.
Mr Devine, who was recently awarded the Commonwealth Bank National Teacher Award for 2017, said the school's culture had changed.
"It has shifted from a culture of 'these kids are really weak and it's all a bit hopeless' to one of teaching, education and learning," he said.
He said that when he began working at the college in 2010 many students had no idea why they were there. "Now they say, 'it's because I have to learn," he said.
Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said equity funding was "making a real difference to the schools that need it the most".
He said the funding of $566 million over four years was meeting the state government's obligations under the Gonski deal.
"This is the revolution that is taking place in our schools," he said.
It comes as the tense standoff between states and territories and the federal government over a new school funding deal continues.
At an education council meeting on Thursday, states and territories remained united in their opposition to a new deal - which will pump $18.6 billion more into education over the next decade and promises to be fairer than current arrangements.
They argue that it is significantly less money than had been promised under Labor's Gonski deal.
Legislation introduced to federal parliament will require states to sign up to a new national agreement on schooling to receive the funding.
Mr Merlino claims that Victorian schools will be $630 million worse off under the Turnbull government's deal.
Aleesha now attends school three days a week. The 15-year-old has completed a food handler's certificate and is enrolled in VCAL. She wants to attempt VCE and become a lawyer.
"I am 16 this year and I do see a future," she says.