A 23-year-old woman from Mandurah who grew up in the Pilbara would have been overwhelmed and confused about considering university study after school had it not been for the support and mentoring provided through UWA’s Aspire program.
Now, after graduating from UWA with a double major in Sports Science, Exercise and Health, Asha Holland runs her own successful business Alternatively Healthy where she is empowering young women to develop a healthy relationship with their bodies through workshops and mentoring.
Aspire aims to raise aspirations of a tertiary education and the opportunities available to high school students, particularly in regions where university participation rates are low. Seventy-three partner schools across Perth and the Gascoyne, Kimberley, Mid West, Pilbara and Peel regions of Western Australia are involved in the program.
This month, the program celebrates its 10-year anniversary, with more than 85,000 high school students having passed through the program since its inception. More than 300 of those students graduated from UWA and approximately 1,000 students are currently studying at UWA from Aspire partner schools.
Ms Holland was attending Tom Price Senior High School when Aspire visited her school to show her class the different opportunities a university degree could offer.
“I think in regional areas, there isn’t the same exposure to and understanding of higher education opportunities after school compared to schools based in city areas which is why programs like Aspire are so important,” Ms Holland said.
“I came from a small mining town with many people in my town taking up careers in the mining industry and not considering tertiary education."
Ms Holland said through her volunteer work in high school as a cadet in emergency services and after the workshops run by Aspire she became passionate about health and the human body.
“Through my university degree, I became fascinated about the link between the physical body and mental health, realising how crucial a positive mindset is to performance as well as daily life,” she said.
“As someone who personally struggled with an obsession of being physically healthy, the importance of mental health was truly eye-opening to me.”
“I see so much pressure on young women, particularly through social media, to achieve this image of perfectionism. I’m working to empower these young women in my business to accept and love themselves exactly as they are. It’s something that completely changed my life, and it is the most amazing feeling to see the positive affect it is having on other young women.
Elisa McGowan, Manager Student Equity, said Aspire aimed to show students how much variety and choice there is and different career opportunities through a tertiary education.
“The program has really been embraced by the community and it’s wonderful to see students thrive through the program and go on to succeed and find a career they are passionate about.”
The Aspire program is supported by the Alcoa Foundation and BHP. Industry role models regularly volunteer to share their stories of university and career success and offer high school students an insight into some of the types of jobs they can pursue after university.
Nicholas Smith (UWA Media Officer) 08 6488 1888 / 0411 644 492