A turbulent childhood in and out of foster care and an unstable school routine could easily have been the tipping point for Darian Brooker.
But the determined student overcame a difficult past with courage. She has made it her mission to give other young people the chance to do something for themselves.
Ms Brooker, from Kirrawee, founded ‘We Future Leaders’, a Taren Point-based tutoring and mentoring business that gives students the opportunity to increase their confidence and academic potential.
At the age of eight, she was separated from her mother, who was struggling with addiction. She went to 26 different schools, unsure why her bags were suddenly packed on a stranger’s porch.
“My mum did the best job she knew how to do but she had no support,” Ms Brooker said. “It wasn’t safe for me to be home.
“There were a lot of inconsistencies with foster care, moving to the next house without warning. I was crying at school and getting bullied for it. Lovely teachers who acknowledged my struggles were greatest support.”
The university graduate who studied science has always loved learning. “That was my outlet, and that’s why I pursued a role in education, because it was about helping others,” she said.
I could choose to let myself be a victim or choose to do something about it. I feel that my situation has given me the power to influence my future but also other lives.
Ms Brooker started her business in 2019 after noticing a learning gap, particularly among children in foster care, those fleeing domestic violence, in juvenile detention or refugees.
“When I changed schools, there was no transition. I would learn something like how to tell time, then I would change schools and learn again,” she said.
“Our mission is to reduce the education gap between low and high socioeconomic students. Currently, there is a three-year gap. Students are significantly further behind. Elementary and early grade students in high school lack basic numeracy and literacy skills, such as letter recognition and reading. There is also a sharp decline in engagement at all levels.”
The goal is to give children from kindergarten to grade 12 the belief that they can succeed despite setbacks.
“We have partnerships with the Department of Communities and Justice and Ronald McDonald House, where we also care for children with chronic illnesses. One of our boys who was in foster care missed five years of studies, but after six months of schooling he is in school,” Ms Brooker said.
At 25, the educational entrepreneur, who has a team of 35 employees, hopes to reach one million young people by 2041. “It’s a big goal, but why not aim? The pandemic has pushed demand. “
Ms. Brooker is also a finalist for the First National Real Estate Leadership Award in the NSW/ACT Young Achiever Awards. “Recognition is beautiful, but the best part is being a role model,” she said.