UWA student Zong Ken Chai has utilised his data science expertise to support programs that help disadvantaged young people transition to independent adulthood through a McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship at the Salvation Army.
Chai, who is studying a Bachelor of Science in Data Science and Finance, interned with the Salvation Army’s Transitional Support Service (TSS) who provide support for young people leaving State care systems to lead strong independent adult lives.
“I decided to apply because I wanted to learn new things and apply the knowledge that I have learned to give back to the community,” said Chai.
Chai’s role saw him develop an improved case management database for TSS and produce an up-to-date data snapshot of the TSS’ referral list, using data to illustrate the complex needs of young people leaving care and advocate for funding for more and better support for young people whilst in the care of the State .
“At our service we are aware of the complexity, challenges and struggles our young people are going through, but only by framing this into a ‘snapshot’, catching data and percentages, can you demonstrate what we already know and present it to funding bodies to raise awareness of the critical condition of care leavers in WA,” said internship supervisor Yuri D’Amico.
“This important piece of work will be used to advocate to the State Government to put some light on the complexity of young people leaving care and their current needs,” said Yuri.
“The most rewarding element was that I was told that my work will improve TSS workflow and help them to better visualise the data they had at the moment,” said Chai, noting that working with this data has changed his perspective on young people in WA.
“I realised how trauma and mental health can affect one’s daily life. I also learned that there are a lot of young people who have experienced family domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse or even parental neglect. All these issues will have a significant impact on a young person and the choices they make,” said Chai.
The TSS commended Chai’s professionalism and competency in delivering this important piece of work.
“Chai has been a dedicated and focussed student who was ready to deliver the projects assigned. It would have taken months of work from our staff to elaborate this data and we just could not afford to take away staff from their current work. Luckily, we had a committed young man who gave us a hand,” said Yuri.