AFL boosting youth education with $20,000 scholarships

The Jim Stynes Scholarship, named in honour of the Melbourne Demons great who passed away in 2012, aims to provide a pathway towards education and employment for young people from multicultural, Indigenous and disadvantaged communities.

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The scholarship, which awards recipients $20,000, recognises members of Australia’s youth for their achievements and contribution to the community.

Cheyenne Macumber, 15, is one of the 51 new scholarship recipients, and she is set to make her mark on the Australian rules field.

“Football’s not just a sport for me,” she said.

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“It’s pretty much my career and led me to where I am now.”

She has been selected for the Woomera state league and youth girls’ championships.

There’s no questioning Macumber has immense enthusiasm for the sport, her grandmother Brenda Fahey said.

“She did start a team at Airport West last year, from the ground. It took her two years to get it up and going,” Ms Fahey said.

The scholarship is a combined effort between the AFL, Reach Foundation and the federal government.

Trisha Squires is the CEO of not-for-profit youth organisation the Reach Foundation, which was co-founded by Stynes.

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She told SBS the scholarship program is fulfilling Stynes’ vision.

“It can actually change people’s lives in that it allows them to live their dreams with some financial assistance that they just don’t have,” she said.

Sudan-born Mabior Chol, 19, is a past scholarship recipient.

He came to Australia as an eight-year-old, after his family fled his war-torn homeland via Egypt.

He picked up a football for the first time two years later.

“Getting used to the shape of the ball kind of made me want to continue with my footy, I really enjoyed it,” he said.

In November, Chol was recruited by the Richmond Tigers AFL club.

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He’s one of 16 scholarship recipients to be drafted to the AFL.

“That kind of made a huge difference to me, just to get to training, helping my little brothers and sisters with their school fees and helping mum as well,” he said.

Richmond footballer Bachar Houli benefited from a similar scholarship when he was 15-years-old.

“It helped me so much through my education and my football development,” he said.

“It’s great to see that these young men and women can get the opportunity.

“They’ve got very little to get themselves up and going and to give those participants a good kick start in their career is sensational.”

The scholarships were established in 2013 by the AFL, Reach Foundation and federal government, and recognise community projects as well as individuals.

Cheyenne said she was grateful for the opportunity and hoped it fosters growth for others in the community.

“There are people out there that aren’t as lucky as others and they really do deserve it,” she said.