If you’ve ever had a great idea, artistic or business talent, or a streak of individualism, you’ve probably thought about being an entrepreneur. In Western Sydney, kids with talent and drive are learning not only how to grow their talent, but to find ways they might be able to make a living from it.  

Making their recent entrepreneurial debut is a group from Ted Noffs’ Foundation Street University, who utilised their skills to design and sell custom t-shirts.

“We have the equipment and an army of volunteers, young people that come up with the design, that help us with all of the production, with the merchandising and the retail. They actually run the store,” said Roueida Maskaleh, Program Coordinator at the Street University.

“It’s a way to teach our young people you don’t necessarily have to come from a wealthy background or to come from outside of the area that you’re from to be able to become an entrepreneur to be able to build your own business and to become independent at a young age.”

Words from the Wise

Another initiative from Street University develops participants’ artistic flair for dance, painting and performance by matching kids with mentors. These experienced professionals can open students’ minds to opportunities they’d never considered.

“We have a number of volunteers that also do music as a career that tour around Australia and America,” said Roueida. “They teach our young people about what it takes to really pursue the arts as a career.”

Developing their skills and accessing mentors means students can get the break they need. Often, Street University students are grappling with pretty difficult situations.

“Big issues that we deal with are young people and a lot of drugs and alcohol. Health and homelessness are also big issues in the community,” explained Roueida. Recognising this, the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation recently provided a grant to the Street University to educate young people about the importance of physical activity and healthy eating.

Halfway to the Stars

Already, the Street University program has provided a leg-up for the careers of some promising new artists – from hip-hop collective The Pioneers performing at a competition in Las Vegas to a budding television star. “We’re very proud of them all,” Roueida said.

Led by dancer Eliam Royalness, The Pioneers crew even competes internationally - recently representing Australia at the Hip-Hop International in Las Vegas. “A lot of the dancers are disadvantaged youth, but they have a lot of potential and talent,” said Eliam. “We just got together because we love dance.”

During his time teaching at Street University, Eliam has seen significant changes in some of his students. “We’re such an open-minded group; we’re accepting of race and sexuality, where they’ve come from, what they’ve been through,” he said. “A lot of the kids have battled harmful backgrounds. We’re able to open up to one another, and help each other through that kind of thing. I know that they’ve changed for the better.”

Eliam believes his dancers have got what it takes to go pro. “Definitely, we have the potential as a group to be professional,” he enthused. “We’ve seen some of our friends and competitors to go on to work with international superstars, and that’s the dream for us. We want to work towards that.”