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Grow a Star

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Grow a Star

Grow a Star is an innovative, youth mentoring and scholarship program that helps young people from disadvantaged backgrounds overcome the financial or generational obstacles that are preventing them from following their academic, sporting or artistic dreams.

By enabling young people to pursue their passions, the program aims to build the self-confidence in young people to achieve their highest ambitions and foster habits and behaviours that can set them up for life. 

Activities such as learning, sport and the arts connect young people to their peers and to their communities. A young person engaged in this way will be more likely to engage in positive learning, positive health and eventually positive employment experiences. However, for many disadvantaged and vulnerable young people there are many barriers that get in the way of them participating in their interests and enthusiasms. Too often an opportunity to excel is closed off because of financial and family circumstances that prevent participation. This is where Grow a Star comes in.

We work with young people and their families to enable them to pursue a hobby, a passion or ambition. We remove barriers by:

  • Funding specialist lessons or coaching
  • Purchasing equipment or specialist clothing
  • Funding sports club registrations and/or representative fees
  • Funding some travel expenses and excursions
  • Providing music lessons or the purchase of an instrument
  • Funding costs of specialist elective school subjects
  • Providing mentoring and support

These are examples and the possibilities are numerous.

The benefits of participating in Grow a Star are frequently far broader than the accomplishment of a participant’s short-term goals. For many young people, the mentoring on offer through the program represents the first time anyone outside their immediate family has demonstrated any sort of belief in their abilities and, even more importantly, has shown them a genuine pathway via which they can achieve their goals.



The Grow a Star program was created by Compass Housing Services and is the first of its kind to be designed and operated by a community housing provider.

Since its launch in 2012, Grow a Star has assisted hundreds of young people from the Hunter, Central Coast, Mid North Coast and remote Central West regions to pursue their academic, artistic or sporting goals at grassroots and representative levels.

Grow a Star expanded its geographic reach to Queensland in 2016 and the first New Zealand recipient was a awarded a scholarship in 2018.

The program has supported budding rock musicians, athletics champions, lawn bowls specialists and ambitious tennis players to name a few.


Social Responsibility

Today, 3 million Australians are living in poverty, including one in six children. That’s almost 740,000 children. Poverty can seem insurmountable, but sometimes, all that people need is a chance to break the cycle of disadvantage.

In households where finances are tight, young people can fall behind with their learning, leaving them more vulnerable to experiencing hardship themselves later in life and falling into a cycle of disadvantage. They can also often miss out on the sort of extra-curricular activities that play an important role in connecting people to their communities.

The social benefits of the Grow a Star program are far broader than providing young people with the opportunity to achieve their short-term goals. For many young people, the mentoring on offer through the program represents the first time anyone outside their immediate family has demonstrated any sort of belief in their abilities and just as important, has shown them a realistic pathway to achieving their goals.

Encouraging generational change by empowering young people will have far-reaching, long-term positive effects within our community.

Interested in applying? Then click on the link below and complete the Grow a Star Application Form.

We'd love to hear from you!

Grow a Star Application Form

Compass has recently expanded the award winning Grow a Star program thanks to a new partnership with Beyond Bank.

In households where money is tight, kids often miss out on the sort of extracurricular activities that most would simply take for granted. But these activities play an important role in connecting young people to their communities.

The Grow a Star Beyond Bank Scholarship will encourage generational change by empowering young people from low income families to follow their academic, sporting or artistic dreams.

Beyond Bank will provide $75,000 over three years to fund scholarships valued up to $2000. Scholarships are open to young people aged between 10 and 18 living in Community or Social housing properties in NSW.

Download the Beyond Bank Scholarship Guidelines and Application Form

The program encourages collaboration between other agencies and mentors – specifically support networks, sporting partners, government bodies as well as individual and corporate contributors.

You can donate to Grow a Star using the link below.


Lleyton's Grand Slam

Lleyton found his passion for tennis when he was just 10 years old in the tiny town of Gloucester, with a bit of help and a lot of determination, eight years later he is preparing for the professional circuit in Melbourne.
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Lleyton found his passion for tennis when he was just 10 years old. He’d been successful in many other sports at school over the years, winning state titles and local competitions including basketball, touch football and cross country. One day he decided to try his hand at tennis, and he said it “just felt right”.

In 2016, when Lleyton was 13, he and his mum Lisa and sister Shania relocated from Gloucester to Newcastle in NSW, to help Lleyton access coaching without having to drive many hours to Forster each week. Not long after, he applied for assistance from Grow a Star to enrol in a training program with Newcastle’s Innovate - Sport Specific Conditioning. It had been tough financially for Lisa as a single mum to fund the coaching, equipment, tournament fees and travel costs associated with top level tennis. 

A highlight for Lleyton was when he received a personal letter from Aussie tennis legend Ken Rosewall. At 14, Lleyton had won the medal named after the eight times Grand Slam singles winner. He was selected as best and fairest from 241 players in the Inter-district league in Sydney. Lleyton won every match; he didn’t drop a set. 

2019 was a busy year for Lleyton, winning awards from the Hunter Academy of Sport for Most Outstanding Male Athlete in an Individual Sport, Hunter Blues Sports Award (Top 8 in State for Tennis), Lambton High School’s Tennis Player of the Year, Athletics Age Champion and Cross-Country Age Champion.

2020 saw Lleyton complete his HSC, however the COVID-19 pandemic took him on an unexpected path with tennis. He was hoping to get his rankings up during his final year of school, but with all of the national and international competitions being cancelled, he wasn’t able to achieve that goal. Instead, he used the downtime to focus on increasing his intensity program with his coach, Anthony at Newcastle’s Innovate - Sport Specific Conditioning.

As fate would have it, the pandemic had a silver lining for Lleyton, with his coach Anthony at Innovate suggesting he forget about the junior competition in NSW and head straight for the professional scene. He worked with Lleyton for 9 weeks with 3 x one-on-one sessions a week, building up his strength, undergoing body movement assessments, conditioning and specialised training in preparation for the professional circuit in Melbourne.

Lleyton has now been assigned to a coach at Melbourne’s Maribyrnong Sports Academy where he will take part in a disciplined and challenging training program designed to empower and maximise his potential in tennis across all five components of the game (technical, tactical, physical, mental and nutritional).

Lleyton’s mum Lisa and sister Shania moved to Melbourne with him in January 2021 to support him. It took them over two weeks to get there with all of the border lockdowns, testing and isolation time. Shania jokingly says she wants to be his manager and will only be looking for 5% commission when he reaches the top!

Lisa says “If it wasn’t for Grow a Star, Lleyton would never have been able to enrol in that original training program. We just couldn’t afford it at the time. It really made the world of difference to his game and enabled him to develop the strength to compete against older players.”

Look out for Lleyton, he could well be starring in Australian and international tennis tournaments in the very near future.

Sisters reaching for the Stars

After spending seven years in a refugee camp in Kurdistan, sisters Aya and Dalal are finding independence and following their dreams in Australia.
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Born in Syria, Aya is the eldest of five siblings and Dalal is the second eldest. The family arrived in Australia in 2018 after spending seven years in a refugee camp in Kurdistan in the northern region of Iraq. They began their life in Australia in Newcastle with the support of services including Settlement Services International (SSI), Northern Settlement Services (NSI) and Wesley Mission.

Aya’s dream is to become a human rights lawyer. While the family were living in the refugee camp in Iraq, Aya became involved in Pathfinders, where she spent much of her time teaching other young children in the camp about the mission to empower people to live with hope and equal opportunity to achieve their potential. Aya also taught English and provided translation services for others in the refugee community.

Dalal’s dream is to become a pharmacist. She used to spend a lot of time at her uncle’s pharmacy in Syria when she was younger, watching him go about his business and it was there, that she began to think about a career in pharmacy.

In 2019, the girls were both attending Callaghan College in Waratah, however they were struggling to keep up with school assignments as their 11 year old sister Gulcheen has significant health issues as well as Spina Bifida and spent 9 months in a Sydney hospital with their mother while she received treatment, including dialysis and ultimately a kidney transplant. While their mother and sister were away, Aya was responsible for all of the cooking, cleaning and caring for their father and other siblings. She became the ‘go to person’ for her family as she speaks the most fluent English and regularly advocates for her parents.

Both Aya and Dalal were referred to the Grow a Star program in mid-2019 by Wesley Mission to assist them with their schooling.

Aya was granted a $2,000.00 Beyond Bank Grow a Star Scholarship, which she has used to purchase a laptop, uniforms, PPE clothing for electives, books and stationery. Dalal was also sponsored by Grow a Star to purchase her school uniforms, books and stationery. She is currently at Callaghan College Waratah, while Aya moved to the Jesmond Senior Campus in 2020.

Both Aya and Dalal both love attending school here in Australia despite the challenges associated with still learning the English language. Aya is very focused on university and she’s carefully selecting subjects to ensure she obtains an ATAR score that will see her being accepted to study law.

The sisters are determined to find their independence in this new country, with Aya set to gain her provisional driver’s licence in a few months and Dalal applying for her learners in a few weeks. A significant challenge for both of them given their short time in Australia.

With the support of Grow a Star, Aya and Dalal are on track to realise their dreams.

Emylia is Riding High

With a Beyond Bank Scholarship through Grow a Star, Emylia has quickly become a talented and capable young equestrian rider who now has her heart set on the Olympics!
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When Emylia was just eight years old, she and her mother Tiffany, moved into a home managed by Compass Housing Services after escaping domestic violence. Tiffany struggled to find long-term employment after injuring her back at work and finances were very tight.

Despite that, Tiffany was determined that her daughter should live her best life and follow her and dreams. A year later, Emily started riding horses.

It’s something she always wanted to do. It’s her safe and happy place where she can be her true self with the horses.” Tiffany says.

“She didn’t have any grand plans back then, but she started to reveal a hidden talent over time. It became obvious she had a natural rapport with horses and as a result of her riding, she has gained so many skills in all aspects of her life.”

A couple of years later, when it became obvious that Emylia had a true passion and talent for equestrian riding, Tiffany saved enough money to buy Emylia her first horse Millies so she could learn and ride more. Unfortunately, equestrian lessons proved to be very expensive and they could only afford one lesson per week.

That’s where Grow a Star and Beyond Bank came in.

When Emylia was awarded a scholarship through the Beyond Bank Scholarship Program with Grow a Star she was able to take extra dressage lessons at Byalee Stables in Cessnock and quickly became a talented and capable young equestrian rider who now has her heart set on the Olympics!

Emylia is working hard towards her dreams. She does a lot of work around the stables and hopes to work as a stable hand which will give her credits towards the stabling and care of her horse. Whilst juggling work and school, Emylia is competing at local equestrian events and regularly brings home ribbons.

Emylia now has a new horse, Flitter and is training with her coach twice a week.  She will soon be riding at a higher level against tough competition but is not daunted.

We are so excited to see where these two end up!” Tiffany says.

So are we!

Look at Lucy shine!

As a young girl, Lucy endured a multitude of disadvantages, and as a result, she was home schooled for several years. This impacted significantly on her confidence and social interaction with her peers.
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When Lucy came to Grow a Star in 2014, she was a very shy 12 year old, with dreams of one day becoming a professional musician. Suffering from an anxiety disorder, was one of several barriers she needed to navigate before she could even contemplate performing in front of crowds.

Through the Grow a Star program, Lucy was sponsored to attend a local music school, The Rock God Music School, where she attended singing lessons once a week. It wasn’t long before her talent was recognised and she was asked to join three other girls and form a group.

She went on to perform at several small events in her local area as both a soloist and with the group. Lucy has made lifelong friends through this journey and her parents have witnessed a change in her confidence and demeanour along the way.

Over the past five years Lucy has worked tirelessly on her singing and this has taken her from that shy 12 year old to a very confident 17 year old young woman who fronts her own music band, has released a number of songs on social media platforms and has supported major overseas acts performing in front of large crowds in major Sydney live venues.

Recently, Grow a Star nominated Lucy for the Channel 7 NSW/ACT Young Achievers Award. She was one of 4 finalists in the Award Category: QPRC Performing Arts Award. Lucy was invited to attend a gala awards night at Doltone House in Sydney on 20th March 2020 before COVID-19 struck. The awards were streamed online on the 11th September, and although Lucy did not win the category, it was a great achievement to make the final four.

Lucy is currently studying for a Certificate in Sound Production and Lighting.

Krystal's Confidence

Grow a Star funding opened a number of doors and brought an unexpected opportunity for an aspiring netballer.
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Grow a Star funding has opened a number of doors and brought an unexpected opportunity for an aspiring netballer.

Krystal Dallinger had not long relocated to Newcastle from her hometown of Dubbo when she became a recipient of Compass Housing’s Grow a Star program. The former Hunter Sports High student says she and her mum had to leave a lot behind when they came to live with her grandmother.

A keen netballer, Krystal was identified for the Hunter Academy of Sport’s program.

“The Grow a Star funding was big for my mum and I,” Krystal says. “It allowed me to put myself out there to develop my netball skills through the Academy and then Australian netballer Sam Poolman’s Aspire Netball program,”

Krystal is enjoying a gap year after successfully completing her HSC in 2019. She’s currently working and spending a lot of time at the gym as she is playing for Central Coast Heart in the Metro League Comp. She is planning on starting her own art business this year and has recently become a mentor for Hunter Academy Sport squad athletes participating in the Aspire Program.

Emily's Olympic Dream

Emily is a determined young woman who is battling a number of physical and mental health issues. She is also a strong swimmer who dreams of competing at the Olympics.
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Emily is a determined young woman who is battling a number of physical and mental health issues. She is also a strong swimmer who dreams of competing at the Olympics.

Grow a Star stepped in when Emily’s family was struggling to cover the costs of the squad training sessions.

“My favourite thing in the whole wide world is swimming. It makes me feel happy. I would like to swim in the Olympics and be a star, but I know I have to train very hard. We were going to drop swimming because of the cost, but Grow a Star helped us. That makes me feel happy and excited.”

Swimming has been of enormous benefit to Emily’s confidence and fitness and now, thanks to Grow a Star, her Olympic dream remains alive and well. 

Helping Kaleb Rock

Kaleb started playing the drums as a way to help overcome his social anxiety and to build self-confidence.
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“I started out with group lessons then moved to one on one. I really liked the drums best because I’m shy and didn’t like being out in front,” Kaleb said.

"Grow a Star has helped me a lot to stay here. My family has had trouble with money. It really makes me happy to come here.” Kaleb’s grandmother Carolyn said that Rosie's School of Rock (where Kaley gets his lessons) had been incredibly important to him as it was the one part of his life that was completely his own.

“Both Kaleb and his older brother live with autism. With his older brother being quite unwell, a lot of the family’s energy is focused on him” Carolyn said.

“It was really important that Kaleb had something just for him, to make him the focus of attention. He has a love of music and Rosie's was the obvious place to come. Rosie's has helped develop Kaleb's confidence and his feeling of self-worth has improved.

None of it would have been possible without the assistance of Grow a Star.” Thanks to Grow a Star and Rosie’s School of Rock, Kaleb’s self-confidence has grown to the point that he has joined a band and is now comfortable performing in public.

Tayla's Talent

Tayla is one of Grow a Star's inaugural Queensland recipients. She is a gifted 12-year old whose love of sport and can-do attitude have helped her cope with a very challenging start in life.
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Before moving into a Compass Housing property in Brisbane, Tayla, and her family had been through a tumultuous period which saw the family in constant turmoil and bouncing back and forth between refuges and outright homelessness.

However, homelessness hasn’t blunted Tayla’s passion for life and for sport. 

Tayla is currently completing year six and while she loves to play a range of sport she has a special talent for both soccer and futsal. Despite only playing for 12 months, Tayla’s natural skills have led to her selection in the Queensland City Futsal Team which is set to compete in the National Futsal Championships to be held in Brisbane this September.

Unfortunately, due to her family’s financial constraints it was likely Tayla wouldn’t be able to take part in the tournament. But thanks to Compass Housing’s Grow a Star program, Tayla’s family will receive the financial assistance they need to allow her to play and show what a champion she really is.

Kaitlyn's Passion

Kaitlyn is one of Grow a Star's inaugural Queensland recipients. She is a charming and talented 13-year old who has many talents and thanks to targeted assistance, will be able to continue doing what she loves.
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Kaitlyn has endured real hardship in her short life. Despite being displaced from her family home over a decade ago, she is a resilient, accomplished and outgoing young woman with a bubbly personality. 

A gifted and passionate singer Kaitlyn was selected to join the Australian Girls’ Choir in 2017. She was quickly identified as talented and received an Outstanding Potential Award and a nomination for more intensive work after touring with the choir for a few months, however she was forced to withdraw from the choir due to her family’s financial circumstances.

Thanks to targeted assistance from Compass Housing’s Grow a Star program, Kaitlyn was able to re-enrol in the choir and continue to pursue her dream of singing professionally. 

In late October 2017, she auditioned with hundreds of others and was ultimately selected to join the choir on a three-week tour across America. During the tour, the girls were hosted with choirs and schools and were involved in 24 performances and workshops. Travelling to destinations including San Francisco, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Palm Springs and Los Angeles, the cultural and performance experiences were many and varied. 

These days, Kaitlyn lives with her family in a Compass Housing property in Brisbane and is currently completing year ten. In addition to her singing prowess, Kaitlyn is a talented writer and has scripted short stories and poems that have had interest from local publishers. She is also heavily involved in musical theatre.

Suzie's Way

In 2013, a group of three young teenagers received contributions under the Grow A Star program for their band ‘Suzie’s Way’.
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At the time the talented group aged in years from 14, 15 and 17 years resided in Compass homes on the NSW Central Coast.

Through the funding allocated to the Grow a Star program, each member of the band received a tuition grant from Compass to assist them with developing their musical talents. Additionally, the whole group received an equipment grant so they could purchase a PA system which has enabled them to perform live at events.

After working together for 18 months, they started performing live on numerous occasions, which lead to a number of booked performances. Through the Grow a Star program, Compass will continue to support the band as they develop and will continue to encourage and support other young Compass tenants to follow their dreams in whatever field they choose.

Photo: Suzie on lead vocals, Jordan on keyboard and Matena on guitar and vocals.

Brianna's A Star

Brianna is a smart, vibrant and focused young lady living in a Compass property on the NSW Central Coast. She dreams of one day being a political journalist, and through the Grow a Star program, Compass was able to supply her with a laptop and Spanish tutoring.
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After receiving the assistance from Compass, Brianna’s Spanish grades improved, and with the help of the computer laptop Brianna sat within the top 5-10% of students in each of her classes at her Secondary College.

In 2014 a highlight of Brianna’s journey was the opportunity that Compass provided in bringing Brianna in contact with NSW State Member Chris Spence MP, who will host Brianna at NSW Parliament House for a meet and greet and for question time. An amazing opportunity for any young aspiring political journalist. Brianna has also received a $2000 scholarship from Housing NSW under their Youth Scholarship Grant.

We are delighted to report that since completing her HSC, Brianna has enrolled and is currently studying Communications at Macquarie University in Sydney. Brianna commutes to Sydney to attend university whilst providing continued support to her mother. 

Mundi's Story of Success

Mundinarra (Mundi) is a talented soccer player with the big dream of playing professionally. She gained the attention of a talent scout who invited her to play in the US, and with the help of the GROW A Star program, can now see her dream becoming a reality.
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Mundinarra (Mundi) is a tenant of Compass, and lives with her mother. While playing soccer at representative level on the Central Coast, she gained the attention of the National Scouting Report, a large scouting organisation that identifies talented athletes to send to US colleges on scholarships. Marketing these talented athletes to US colleges costs money though, money that Mundi and her mum didn’t have. That’s where Compass stepped in with the GROW A Star program. Through this initiative, Compass was able to financially assist Mundi to pursue her dream.

“I’ve played soccer all my life… I never thought I’d get somewhere with it”, Mundi reflected.

Holding back tears of gratitude Mundi’s mother Robyn thanked Compass, “If they weren’t out there, she wouldn’t have had this opportunity so we really appreciate that”.

International Aspirations

Lilliana's dream is to one day become an international model. When she was to be invited to Sydney to attend a modelling course and compile her portfolio, Compass was able to assist with the costs involved that her family had no way of covering.
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Llilliana was modelling at a local shopping centre when an agency scout from a large Sydney firm noticed her. This agency offered her the opportunity to study at their school for two years, and enhance her opportunities to move into the fashion industry.

Unfortunately, Lilliana’s family could not afford to take this offer up due to ongoing family challenges - however Lilliana’s grandmother saw that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and submitted an application to Grow A Star.

With the help of Compass, Lilliana who is now in year 11, can now travel to Sydney fortnightly to study and has now been able to put together a modelling portfolio. Her dreams of being a professional model are now within sight thanks to the program and support of her family.

At a relatively young age, Lilliana has made a huge commitment with undertaking regular travel and training on top of her studies at school. At the end of the program she will have achieved a Certificate II in Business, a Statement of Attainment in Networking, a Statement of Attainment in Deportment, as well as valuable modelling experience.

Compass and the Grow A star program are extremely proud to support Lilliana. 

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