Let me tell you a little about myself - my name is Skye and I'm in year 12 at Phoenix College. I'm 18 and like many young people I have had a hard time at school.
I've been at Phoenix since year seven and never really had much interest in school. I definitely haven't had the easiest life and this has taken a toll on my mental health at times, making it hard to have any sort of interest in school.
I gave up in year nine and got into heaps of trouble. I definitely wasn't the easiest student to deal with but my teachers never gave up on me.
As year 11 rolled around I was in VCE and that was a challenging experience for me, but it also made me realise that path wasn't for me.
I was then reluctantly put into VCAL and at the beginning I didn't want to go into it because I was scared and didn't know what it was.
Since being in VCAL, I have never loved school more. We are a family and I owe everything to my wonderful teachers who care for not just me, but for everyone. They all go above and beyond just to make sure we're okay and that we know we're cared for.
VCAL is often labelled as being "easier" and "the easy way out" but it's really not. You gain real world skills, friendships and you feel important.
We get the same certificate as VCE students just in a different way.
VCAL is about stepping out of comfort zones doing things like placements and work experience, adapting to situations we wouldn't normally have an interest in like exploring the environment.
I got the opportunity to organise a zero waste festival, a pride day and a doughnut drive. I got to learn to speak with the city council and entertainers like drag queens to include in my events. I also got to do a VET course in retail cosmetics through Federation University where I get to do what I love while learning at the same time.
With the help of the VCAL teachers, you look for courses you are interested in like, building and construction, nursing, hairdressing and so much more.
VCAL is about working with people and that is sometimes challenging because not everyone is the same. We really get to know each other on a different level. It's challenging to adapt to individual people and know people's boundaries and we will use this in every workplace and every situation outside school.
People don't understand that you have to pass every subject and assessment to pass VCAL - you always have to be your best and it's a lot of hard work. It's challenging to have to do panel interviews, job applications, formal presentations, work with groups and members of the community.
In some ways, VCAL is more challenging and it really sets us up to leave school and be successful.
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I lost my grandma who was my biggest supporter and the reason I tried at school. I thought there was no reason to keep going but my teachers gave me a reason to keep pushing, they have never given up on me no matter how tough it gets.
I genuinely wouldn't be at school if it wasn't for our teachers - they push us to try our best and make sure we feel okay. They have opened my eyes for me to see my potential and have made me realise I am capable of doing anything I set my mind to.
If you have the opportunity to be a part of VCAL do it.
I could say 10,000 words why you should or why it's the best thing, but you have to experience it for yourself.
The only wish I have is that I got to be in VCAL sooner. I only have about four weeks left and I am upset to say goodbye, but I am also so grateful to have had this opportunity.
Please cherish your time in school because in a blink of an eye it's over, but the time and the memories last.
VCAL changed my life.
Skye Wiseman writes for SHOUT, The Courier's online youth platform
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