National Youth Week, April 4 to 13, is a massive celebration of young people across Australia. Here, AIME National Partnering Operations Manager Helen Caldwell shows we have plenty to be proud of in an amazing Indigenous mentoring program.

It started with one good idea. Attending Sydney University with the help of a scholarship, Jack Manning Bancroft was keenly aware that most indigenous students didn’t get the same opportunity. Jack’s own grandfather had been denied an education, which made him all the more driven to get one himself.

Jack’s idea was simple: he gathered 25 Indigenous and Non-Indigenous mentors, and asked them to help a group of high-school students progress to finishing high school. He called the program the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME).

Since its inception in 2005, AIME has developed into a highly-structured mentoring program that connects high-school students from Years 9 to 12 with university student mentors in a series of programs that gets them through high school and into uni, further education, or employment.

Jack was only 19 when he started AIME. In its first year the program reached 25 young people. Fast forward to 2013, which saw us help more than 2,000 high school students, and 1,000 university students – all because one young man saw a problem, and thought he’d try solving it.

The program’s numbers speak for themselves. In 2012, AIME students completed Year 12 at a rate of 91.1 percent, compared with non-AIME Indigenous students at a rate of 71.8 percent, and close to the non-Indigenous percentage of 99.2 - gradually 'closing the gap'.

When Indigenous students do better, so does the economy. An independent report by KPMG discovered that in 2012 alone, AIME contributed $38 million to the economy. That’s right - for every $1 spent on mentorship, the program generates $7.

The report also discovered that in their average working lifetime, an AIME student with a university degree will earn on average $332,000 more than a student who doesn’t complete high-school.

With the help of supporters like the Coca-Cola Foundation, AIME is targeting to reach 10,000 children annually by 2018. Our dream is that Indigenous students will complete high school and take on university degrees at the same rate as Non-Indigenous students.

Visit AIME and find out more