Back to boarding House for former resident 'Suma'
Some people would dread the thought of living at their old boarding house after graduation. That's not the case for Thithapo 'Suma' Nona though.
Old and new faces will be welcomed through the gates of AFL Cape York House next week as the Cairns boarding facility continues to grow in 2017.
At least 35 boys from the Torres Strait, Cape York and the Gulf of Carpentaria will board with the House in its first term while attending high school.
But for the first time since its opening, more than half of the House’s residents will be year seven and eight students - some as young as 11.
Former House graduate Thithapo ‘Suma’ Nona has returned and will support students, living at the Bungalow facility while continuing his studies at James Cook University.
“I want to be a mentor to these boys,” the Moa Islander says.
“When I went to uni, I realised that Indigenous people need someone to support them.
“You move from community to big cities like me when I went to Sydney [after graduating from the House].
“It’s hard. It’s a big step for an Indigenous person to go from [a remote] community to a big city mentally.”
Mr Nona will study marine science this year.
“I knew wanted to work in the water in some way,” he says.
“I did psychology at Sydney University but it wasn’t right for me.
“My goal is to focus on my studies. I want to help the boys - give them a sense of direction. If they don’t have that, they just do nothing.”
House manager Richard Stewart says Mr Nona’s return reflects the success of AFL Cape York House.
“There’s no more powerful symbol of how your program is running than when someone like ‘Suma’ comes back,” Mr Stewart says.
“We want to give these kids the best possible experience because we know this is a springboard for engaging with school.
“This is our fifth year running now. We continue to learn and build partnerships.”
As one of nine AFL Cape York House students to have attended university, Mr Nona has some advice for students moving in.
“Make the most of your opportunities, the tutors and the House support that we have here,” he says.
“There’s a lot of positive energy in this place.”