Dapto teen builds future thanks to mentors

Dapto teenager Cameron Heard lives with autism, but instead of viewing it as a curse, he appreciates its benefits.

When asked about its pros, he humbly acknowledges his intelligence.

"I'm really good with numbers and measuring," he said.

"I think of myself as a special person, I just don't let it bring me down."

It is this positive attitude that has helped him get through some tough times growing up.

The now 19-year-old was sent into foster care when he was six and entered a loving family.

But at 17, he was sent to a residential house in Shellharbour for eight months where he was confronted by other teenagers and their problems.

"It was a big shock for me," he said.

"There was someone there who was self-harming and a guy who had a rap sheet as long as my body.

"I told him, 'I don't want to go down that road, I don't roll that way'."

Once Cameron turned 18, he went straight back to his foster parents and joined Northcott's Oak Flats Transition to Work (TTW) program for people with disabilities.

He credited the program with giving him the confidence and support he needed to become a landscaper.

"I like the program because everyone who goes there is serious about it," he said.

"The staff there are like gods, they just help you with everything."

Cameron hopes to complete a certificate III in bricklaying at Dapto TAFE this year and has already completed a certificate I in horticulture.

He said it was exciting to see a record number of young people with disabilities sign up to the program this year.

Fifteen school leavers have joined the TTW program, ready to take on the challenges of training, gaining new qualifications and finding a job.

Program co-ordinator Rod Clark said Northcott aimed to build participants' confidence.

"[We] develop their skills in other areas like resume writing, interviewing techniques, cover letter writing and travel training so they can get to and from work independently," he said.

School leavers with disabilities are invited to join the program by sending an email to rod.clark@northcott.com.au or calling Rod Clark on 4256 7614.

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