Stories From Learners

Stories From Learners > Turning your life around

Turning your life around

Young man in shirt and tie

Despite battling every day with very high levels of anxiety, Eltham man Matt Agostinelli has turned his life around and is now a student mentor and valued volunteer, helping VCAL students and intellectually disabled adults reengage with education and training.

For the past four years, Matt, 20, has been a student at Diamond Valley Learning Centre (DVLC), a Learn Local in Greensborough.

At the start, it was hard for Matt simply to be at school.

‘Matt had suffered a prolonged period of disengagement from school, community and his peers,’ explains Matt’s teacher Jason Drew. ‘When Matt first came to DVLC in 2012 he was struggling with anxiety and complex mental health issues. It was hard for him to engage because he had to work so hard just to be at school.’

But through hard work, persistence and courage, Matt has progressively won his battle to manage his anxiety, has completed a number of pre-accredited programs and his senior VCAL certificate, as well as commencing a Certificate II in Community Services.

He is now a leader within the DVLC student community, undertaking volunteer support roles in the foundation VCAL program and in a program supporting students with intellectual disabilities. Matt is also supporting young disengaged students on week long wilderness therapy journeys.

‘Since 2012 we have seen Matt change dramatically,’ explains Youth Program Manager Katrina Sawyer. ‘He has matured, gained confidence and grown into a young man we are very proud to have on our staff as an exceptional volunteer.

‘He relates to students in a way no one else in our centre can. Even trained teachers could learn a lot from observing Matt’s ability to come forward or hold back at just the right time.’

Matt now plans to undertake a Teacher’s Aide Certificate III and is interested in a career supporting students with disabilities to engage fully with all aspects of education and community life.

‘It’s so important that there are alternatives to mainstream schools for students that don’t fit in that system and who are still determined to get an education,’ says Matt. ‘A lot of the VCAL students I work with wouldn’t be getting an education at all if it wasn’t for DVLC and I would still be stuck at home too.’