Felicity Liston almost didn't get a chance to discover her passion for music, which would have meant a very different future to the one she has now.
Music has given her a goal, a career, and the ability to help others but it was support from the Smith Family charity that gave her the opportunity to chase her musical dream.
Felicity and her three siblings received support from the charity's Learning for Life program in primary school and when she started year seven at Phoenix P-12 Community College she wanted to learn the flute, which her parents could not afford.
"Year seven was a key turning point when I really started making the most out of the program opportunities," she said. "In year seven they provided the extra funding to help me branch out in to the music program. I was able to hire a flute from the school and take part in private lessons."
After taking part in many other programs offered through the Smith Family during her school years, in 2016 she graduated from Phoenix and last year the wheel turned full circle when she returned to the school as a flute teacher.
She balances teaching with her second-year Bachelor of Psychological Science studies at Fed University.
Thousands of Australian children from disadvantaged backgrounds need vital learning and mentoring support to help them succeed at school. Please give generously to our 2019 Winter Appeal https://t.co/ZbSJH9VUl2#createbetterfuturespic.twitter.com/QZpG2mf4bR— The Smith Family (@SmithFamily_org) June 3, 2019
"Ideally I want to marry music and psychology together. I've always known I want to work with people ... but going in to something like music therapy, the sort of practice where I can work with people with an intellectual disability or other issues and use music as a vehicle to engage with them and make a difference to their lives."
Ms Liston said without the support from the Smith Family, her future would have been vastly different and she urged the community to get behind the Smith Family Winter Appeal to raise funds for their education programs.
"It's important to know that extra money and support doesn't just go to students who are really struggling, but it can realise potential for students who may want to take it further."
Taking part in the Smith Family's smArts program in year nine, when she had nine weeks of musical tutoring and master classes, then had a tour of Melbourne University and performed at its Melba Hall, cemented her goals for a musical future.
"It really opened my eyes to what I could do after school, and doing smArts in year nine was a really good time for making career choices," she said.
The Smith Family education programs range from homework help, reading and arts programs through to career tutoring and more.
"The people I met through doing these programs with different schools and meeting new people and talking at different events really developed me personally, as it can do for many students. The potential is unlimited if students get the resources they can just go for it."
Through Learning for Life, Felicity was involved in a number of programs - from student2student to SmArts and from iTrack to tutoring and as a tertiary student she is still receiving support.
The Smith Family's 2019 Winter Appeal aims to raise $4 million by June 30 to deliver vital learning and mentoring support for more than 10,000 disadvantaged students.
"That extra bit of support and encouragement can make a life-changing difference," said Smith Family general manager Anton Leschen.
"For these young people, it can be challenging to set study or career goals or even see the value of completing Year 12. Our programs increase their likelihood of finishing school and going on to further study, which gives them a much better chance in an increasingly competitive job market. That's positive not only for the young person themselves but our society as a whole.
"We're asking the community to get behind our Winter Appeal to help more children get the best possible start in life and contribute to a better future for young Australians in need."
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