University student and aspiring medical researcher Wayne Cawthorne is in his fourth year as a participant in a program strengthening Indigenous youth through education.
Learn, Earn, Legend is a program funded by the Australian Government, supported by the National Rugby League, and operated by the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys.
The program is designed to assist young Indigenous students to establish their career pathways, become work ready and improve the school-to-work transition.
Under the program Wayne gained a job as a year 10 student and is now studying at James Cook University for a Bachelor of Advanced Science, majoring in molecular biology and chemistry.
He hopes to use his degree to make a difference.
"Medical research is how I can use both my passion for science and my passion for helping people," Wayne said.
Growing up, Wayne's grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes and it's this experience that has given him the passion to help others.
"At one point in time we were visiting my grandmother every single weekend in 2009 because she was sick, and I definitely knew then that I wanted to be able to help our mob in one way or another," Wayne said.
Wayne's experience and his interest in science led him to exploring study options, which he discussed with his mentor, provided through the Learn, Earn, Legend program.
"My mentor would come to the school regularly to have a chat and I remember discussing the different pathways, which helped me to decide on my university course," Wayne said.
Cowboys community general manager Fiona Pelling said that the program helps students like Wayne to realize their aspirations.
"The specialized support offered helps to really open young people's eyes to the world of possibility and really encourages them to have goals and aspirations," she said.
In addition to increasing employment rates and prospects of Indigenous Australians, the program is contributing to the commitment of the Australian Government to halve the gap between the employment of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within the decade.
Fiona said that the support offered to students in the program is key to its success in making a difference.
"Mentors work with students on helping them to understand what that education journey can look like and then provides the support along the way to help them achieve their goals," Fiona said.
For more information on Learn, Earn, Legend, go to www.cowboysfoundation.org.au/programs/learn-earn-legend/.