SIX months ago 15-year-old Dillon Berry was sleeping all day and sitting up all night playing PlayStation 3 games.
Today Dillon, from Portland, is actively re-engaged in education and working on a career plan for the future.
Dillon is one of many young people in the Glenelg Shire region who have turned their lives around by rediscovering education.
The shire has improved from having the second worst level of youth disengagement in Victoria to being ranked 47th among the state’s 79 municipalities.
The number of people aged 15 to 19 who are not engaged in employment or education dropped from 132 to 72 between 2006 and 2011.
After spending months out of education, Dillon is now enrolled in the Portland Secondary College re-engagement program.
He said the course had changed his outlook towards school.
Dillon started having problems in mainstream school last year as a year 8 student.
“I’m bigger than most 15-year-olds and got picked on a bit and didn’t feel comfortable at school,” he said.
Dillon’s attendance was sporadic during year 8, before he withdrew from school during term four.
He started year 9 this year but left just as quickly and retreated to his own world.
“I was sitting around doing not much; sleeping all day and playing PS3 all night.”
Dillon said he wanted to continue his education but didn’t want to return to a large class in a mainstream school. After being referred to the re-engagement program by his year level co-ordinator, Dillon returned to education in April.
His attendance was initially about 70 per cent but in recent months improved to more than 95 per cent.
Re-engagement program lead teacher Chris Thomas said Dillon was an excellent example of someone making the most of a new opportunity.
“His confidence and self-belief have improved substantially,’’ Mr Thomas said.
‘’Dillon is a very positive member of class and next year will be a leader of the school.
“He is an awesome example of someone who has come from a base of no schooling to having a lot of success and a career plan.”
Dillon is not only learning in his VCAL program, he is also enjoying his return to school.
“It’s a more home-like environment,” he said.
Dillon is also planning for the future.
He expects to return to the program next year and in the long term hopes to secure work as an apprentice plumber.
Glenelg Southern Grampians Local Learning and Employment Network executive officer Anne Murphy said the improved engagement figures showed Portland Secondary College’s re-engagement program was working and other regional collaborative programs were having a positive impact.