In her early teens Nicola Xanthopoulos endured so much bullying that it destroyed her confidence and self belief.
Ms Xanthopoulos put up with it and didn’t say much until the torment started to go beyond verbal abuse.
She eventually changed schools and found by focusing on her gifts and what she was passionate about she could start moving forward.
That led her to start Nicola’s Tutoring after she completed the HSC. Then continuing to do so while she studied Early Childhood Education, English literature and ancient history at University of Wollongong.
When Ms Xanthopoulos gave her acceptance speech after winning the Education Service category at the Illawarra and South Coast Local Business Award recently her words completely silenced a capacity room of 700 people at Dapto Leagues Club.
The 23 year old from Blackbutt left everyone admiring and respecting her achievements and determination to succeed in a business that helps many children academically and socially.
As a businesswoman Ms Xanthopoulos won the national sole trader award at the Australian Small Business Champion Awards in April. She had previously been a finalist in the 2017 Illawarra and South Coast Local Business Awards and was encouraged by the organisers to compete in a different category at the national level.
Six years into her business venture Ms Xanthopoulos now commutes four hours a day to Sydney University, where she is doing a Masters in High School Teaching for English and History, while still tutoring local children of all ages after school at Blackbutt.
Something she is very passionate about is raising awareness about bullying. Which is what she did after winning her first regional award in July.
After the initial shock of winning she spoke about the issue very close to her heart in a hope her journey and story would inspire others.
“Bullying is something I think everyone should be aware of,” she said.
“I wanted to talk about how parents and adults in our community need to be completely supportive of all children who have experienced or know of someone who has experienced bullying,” she said.
“It does affect learning. We really need to stand together and make sure that people who are being bullied know they have support. Adults can make that support happen. We adults know how to find the resources. There is a gap and we need to close it by intervening.”
Ms Xanthopoulos offers one-on-one tutoring in Blackbutt to students of all ages in the Shellharbour area. And she hopes her success will encourage other victims of bullying that they can succeed as well.
She said she liked being an advocate in introducing people to their own confidence.
“Bullying doesn’t necessarily go away completely,” she said.
“But after a while you start to see what is important to you and fight for it.”
“For me it was my teaching and learning. When I moved school the staff showed me where I could find my confidence again. That really boosted me and helped me strive for what I wanted and achieve it.”
Ms Xanthopoulos has seen how winning awards recently has encouraged others by showing them what is possible.
She is proof victims of bullying you can overcome a terrible time in their life and start achieving their goals.
“It doesn’t matter what happened in your past. You can be in control of your own destiny. If you work hard you can achieve it,” she said.
When she completes her Masters in 2019 Ms Xanthopoulos plans to work as a high school teacher during the day and run her tutoring business late in the afternoon and early evening.
Her long term goal is to run her own pre-school and before-and-after school care centre with a tutoring facility as well.
“The reason I started my business originally was when I finished Year 12 all I wanted to do was teach,” she said.
“I had all my qualifications in piano teaching so I started tutoring piano, singing and music.
“I then branched out and started English and Maths in primary school. Then I had some friends who wanted help with English in high school so I branched out there as well.
“This is my sixth year of tutoring. Having that time to really practice teaching and see if I liked it before I went on to uni has really helped me to know what I like and what I love to do do every day. And get some experience with children.”