JJ, Martha, and Emma’s Stars Story

Jennifer Joyce is best known as JJ among friends at her school at Heatley Secondary College in Townsville, Queensland. JJ enrolled in the Stars Foundation program in Year 7 in 2018 and has since had a series of Stars Mentors until completing her Year 12 ATAR in 2023. She is school vice-captain and her favourite subjects included tourism, business, Japanese, Auslan and anything related to the arts.

In November 2023 JJ travelled to Melbourne with nine other Stars students and two Mentors which was a big incentive for finishing school. The Stars Foundation rewards Year 12 graduates with an interstate trip they jointly plan to celebrate their achievements.

“This end of school trip helps motivate us to reach our end goal. Getting to see a new place and a new city is an amazing experience and is so much fun. The more I see, the more inspired I am to see more, and it’s lovely that we get to have this experience with Stars girls this one last time,” said JJ.

“I was determined to finish Year 12 and I have my Mum to thank as she always reinforced the power of education. It was a relief to make it to graduation to see how all the hard work paid off. On graduation night it really hit me how much gratitude I have for all the people who have helped me get to this point and where I am now. It was a very special moment for me and for my family too, as I had my Mum and my three sisters there to celebrate.

“The Mentors are amazing people and are so supportive. I don’t have that many people I can go to for support and having them and Stars there, means I have a place I can turn to for absolutely anything and it has been such a relief for me to know how much they care,” said JJ.

“They help in so many areas in my life, both inside and outside school, and have helped take the weight of my shoulders at different times. I really appreciate that Stars has encouraged me to come out of my shell and has helped me learn how to ask for help, and to be around people who will listen.

“Going after my ATAR was hard and learning to speak up and to talk to the teachers was big as I grew, and I realised it’s not weak to ask for help.

“I’m planning to go to university to do a double degree in social sciences and international relations which may later lead to politics. I’m intrigued by conversations and political matters, and I feel passionately about representing and advocating for my mob. I’d like to be part of the conversation, have a say, and hopefully do some good with it.

“Moving from home to Brisbane will be tough but I know my family are only a call away. I want to lead by example for my little sisters and show them what we can do.

“I’d tell any First Nations girls thinking about joining Stars not to think twice about it. It’s like having an Auntie at school who you can have a yarn with any time you need. When surrounded by the other girls and the Mentors, Stars is like my family at school, especially as the Mentors always let us know they’re only a phone call away.”

Emma has mentored JJ from Years 7 to 12

Stars students typically work with a handful of Mentors during their school journey.

Emma Ferguson is a Transitions Coordinator at Stars and works with the young women to help them identify the best pathways suited to their skills, talents, and interests.

“I’ve been with Miss Emma since day one and she has helped me a lot with the careers side of things and she has been a great support,” said JJ.

The admiration is mutual as Emma mentally recounts the myriad memories while working closely together during the last six years.

“If I had a daughter, I’d wish she could be just like JJ as you just can’t fault this girl!” said Emma Ferguson.

Martha as a Mentor

Martha Sou joined Stars in 2022 and is the lead Mentor for Year 12s at JJ’s school. Following a career in business and accounting and before joining Stars, Martha worked with First Nations children in a boarding school where her passion for making a difference was ignited and she couldn’t imagine ever resuming a job sitting behind a desk again.

“Martha always knows how to make someone laugh and she knows how to light up a room. She tells great practical jokes and gives the best hugs ever. She has a way of knowing as she can just take one look at me, and knows to say, ‘has something happened?’ She is one of the warmest people I know,” said JJ.

Martha describes JJ as a role model who is very respectful, very driven, and always smiling.

“Regardless of what is going on for JJ, she consistently shows up for school, goes to her classes and puts in 100 per cent. One of her biggest strengths is her resilience and her ability to juggle everything – she studies hard, works hard in a casual retail job, and shows up a lot for her family,” said Martha.

“At Stars we help many of our girls understand that perfection is not required for healing, connection is. My hope for JJ is that she realizes her full potential and learns she has wings to reach new heights because she can achieve anything she sets her mind to.”