Story by GO supporter and Stories for Simon illustrator Lauren Briggs.

Jared Smith, a GO Scholar and current Software Engineering student at UNSW has overcome many challenges in order to become the determined, intelligent and talented young man that he is today. Standing by his side, a constant pillar of support has been his mum Christene.

When Jared was 11-years-old, his mum Christene brought home a book on Calculus, the mathematical study of continuous change. Jared read the book from start to finish not realising the significant role Calculus would play in helping to shape the direction of his life.

Jared describes his early life and primary school years growing up in Queensland as ‘challenging years filled with continuous change’. He studied at six different primary schools before moving to Sydney and enrolling in Campbelltown Performing Arts High School. A final school change to Sydney Boys High School was made possible when Jared successfully secured an academic scholarship for Year 11 and 12 with the help of the GO Foundation. Jared thrived and graduated with an HSC in 2019.

Jared is one of a small number of Indigenous students to attend Sydney Boys High over the last 30 years. One of his school highlights was the Year 11 Spectacular, where Jared performed an Indigenous cultural piece. ‘Most of the students had never met an Indigenous person before or learnt about my culture,’ explains Jared. ‘I was extremely proud to perform as a Dharawal man.’ Although Jared was born in Warwick Queensland, he identifies with the Dharawal mob in Sydney where most of his mum’s side of the family live.

Left: 2019 GO Foundation Graduation at Bloomberg HQ, Sydney. Right: Jared performing at the 2018 Schools Spectacular.
Left: 2019 GO Foundation Graduation at Bloomberg HQ, Sydney. Right: Jared performing at the 2018 Schools Spectacular.

Jared attributes much of his achievement to the people who have mentored him along the way. ‘My biggest mentor is my mum,’ shares Jared. ‘She has simply always been there for me and gone out of her way to take every opportunity to help me succeed at school.’ Jared also felt the constant support of the GO team.  Receiving a scholarship alleviated much of the financial stress that fell on his single mum Christine. It allowed Jared to focus on his studies and immerse himself in school life. ‘At a time when I felt so disconnected, not only from my culture but also from my community in general, the GO Foundation has provided me with excellent mentorship and helped to integrate me with the community. I’ve been able to sing and perform and give speeches.’ Jared is immensely grateful. ‘I think in particular, the thing that sets them apart is that they don’t just give scholarships, they give culture.’

During a Year 9 high school engineering camp at Sydney University, Jared met another of his mentors, Ehssan Sakhaee, a past engineering lecturer at Sydney University. Jared was having lunch, engrossed in another book on Calculus, when Ehssan came and sat down beside him. Ehssan shared the coincidence that when he was Jared’s age, he had read the exact same book. The two bonded over Calculus and began meeting monthly, Ehssan mentoring Jared on high school, his career and many other life experiences. Jared reminisces ‘it was great to have someone who had been on the same journey that I was trying to go on. Ehssan is such a lovely guy, very pure and kind.’

Although Jared sported long hair and a desire to be a musician in his early high school years, he soon shifted his interest to aerospace engineering. ‘Who doesn’t think a rocket is cool’, laughs Jared. Realising that there was a lack of industry in Australia, he set his sights on engineering and computer programming. Jared visited a career expo at Google Headquarters, where he happened to meet Derek Harte, the Asia Pacific Internship Program Lead and RAP Lead at Google. Derek was surprised to see a high school student at a career expo (the majority of people attending were in their early to mid 20’s) and could clearly recognise Jared’s determination, talent and desire to succeed. Derek helped guide Jared to select his university degree in Software Engineering at UNSW, where Jared is also the recipient of a Shalom Gamarada Scholarship Program at Shalom College. This scholarship is jointly supported by Shalom College and GO. Jared is currently participating in his second internship at Google Sydney and still meeting with Derek regularly. ‘Without all these people, I definitely couldn’t have done what I have achieved today,’ he says.

One of Jared’s endearing qualities is his modesty. His ability to apply his intelligence, personality, creativity and determination to the continual change in his life will no doubt see him reach incredible heights