Building resilience in young people

Building resilience in young people

Throughout our lifetimes, we may encounter many different forms of challenge and adversity. However, without the social and emotional tools to help us adapt and deal with adversity, small challenges can seem big, and some hardships may seem too difficult to overcome. 

Following the stress, fear and isolation resulting from COVID-19, resilience has been a key word to emerge from the hardships of 2020. Our resilience is constantly being tested as students, teachers, school leaders, and as people. Thus, in the wake of today’s ‘new’ normal’, it’s vital that the dialogue around resilience not only continues, but strengthens. Wellbeing cannot become a buzzword.


Why is resilience important ?

Wellbeing is complex and multidimensional. It can change from day-to-day or week-to week and relates to how students feel and function. 

Resilience is part of emotional wellbeing that involves students being able to maintain or return to a state of positive mental health when faced with challenge or adversity. 

Resilience is important because it helps students to adapt in difficult situations and bounce back to ‘normal’ after experiencing trouble or hardship. 

When students are resilient, they are more likely to adopt a growth mindset, see challenges as opportunities and approach life with the attitude of ‘I can’t do that…yet!’. 


In this episode of the Student Voices podcast, we speak to two recent school leavers whose experiences with resilience have allowed them to achieve their goals. 


Mia Hara’s story of resilience

Mia’s story 

Mia is a Masters of Teaching student, with the ambition to teach and inspire future high school students. While today Mia is incredibly passionate about education, teaching was not always Mia’s focus.

When Mia was younger, she was a pro athlete, holding the title of National Aerobic Gymnastics Champion. The majority of Mia’s week was focused on aerobic gymnastics, whether it be attending practise, teaching juniors or attending competitions.

Aerobic gymnastics was the centre of Mia’s world until a car accident left her with an injured back and unable to participate in her sport. After the crash, Mia was no longer able to pursue her passion and she had to refocus her interests and goals, and rethink her studies at university.

In reevaluating her plans, Mia focused on the other joys in her life, namely coaching and tutoring and in time she found her new calling – teaching. 


The power of perseverance and optimism 

Through Mia’s journey to recovery, she learned the importance of patience, optimism and perseverance. 

Mia spent a year and a half trying to identify exactly what was wrong with her back. Every doctor she saw would tell her the same unfortunate news – that they couldn’t classify the issue. 

After her injury, Mia was the head coach of her aerobic gymnastics centre. Mia thrived while she was teaching, but she found herself feeling extremely down before and after practise because she couldn’t practise the sport herself, “I was too sad in myself to radiate positive energy for other people”

From having to continually move forward after disappointment, Mia learned two things.

  1. Sometimes there’s not always a simple solution
    Sometimes it’s not an easy or obvious solution that someone can tell you straight away.”
  2. You can’t always just wait to get happy, sometimes you just have to make the active choice to make a change and embrace a positive outlook
    “I haven’t gone through everything I have to not have a positive outlook…I want to live a life that’s happy, that’s fulfilling, that gives me value. I don’t want to feel like this, so I’m going to do something about it.”


Mia’s takeaways for teachers 

When Mia was asked about her main advice for teachers, her reply was simple – sharing your personal experiences and opening up with your students to become relatable.

Mia says the best way to inspire resilience through teaching is to share stories of resilience, including your own story. Everyone has been through some kind of hardship in their lifetime, whether it be big or small. Sharing these stories with your students can not only show them real world examples of resilience, but can help students relate to you on a more personal level. 

“Rather than thinking you’re just a perfect adult that knows everything that’s going on, they see that in reality we’re just the same, overcoming obstacles big and small everyday.”


Wil Massar’s story of resilience

Wil’s story 

Wil Massara is a 19 year old entrepreneur. At 15, following his frustration with an education system that lacked “real world skills”, Wil founded his own company; Youth Leadership Academy Australia (YLAA). 

Wil started his business in 2018, selling 65 tickets for his first event in Perth while he was still at high school. A year later, he was touring nationally, with events in four cities across the country where he spoke to more than 200 high school students about teen resilience and youth leadership. 

Today, YLAA has impacted over 10,000 students, across 500 schools. 


Developing Resilience in pursuit of a goal 

In 2019 Wil had a 51% attendance rate, Wil abandoned the traditional schooling system to pursue his ambitions for YLAA. 

Wil’s decision to leave the education system without a high school certificate came with great criticism from the people around him, with many people telling him that he wouldn’t be able to develop a successful business without a high school certificate. 

However, Wil stuck to his goal and persevered through the criticism, using the disbelief of those around him to fuel his ambition further – “Every time I’m told I can’t, I say watch me – I’ll make it happen…When you’re backed up against the wall, you fight so much harder.”

Today, Wil is studying his Masters of Business, and is running workshops on teen resilience and youth leadership across Australia. 


Wil’s takeaways for teachers 

Asked about his main advice for teachers when promoting the resilience of their students, Wil’s reply was simple – storytelling. 

Sharing stories of resilience in the classroom can help build the optimism and growth mindsets of students. Real life stories of resilience can help inspire perseverance in students and help them realise that their goals and aspirations are possible. 

There’s 7 billion people in the world. There’s always been someone on your path before.”




When young people hear stories like those fromMia and Wil, it can help them understand how perseverance, grit and optimism can make all the difference when faced with challenge and adversity. 

To listen to the full interviews Mia and Wil, tune into our most recent episode of the Student Voices podcast.


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