MENTAL health and online learning have been highlighted as some of the biggest issues faced by Wagga's youth in 2020.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a particularly significant role to play in many of the challenges young people are met with, following on from a horror bushfire season and drought.
Chenny Sabay, 16, knows the struggles of living through the pandemic well as a year 12 student at Wagga Christian College.
She said the adjustment to a new way of learning presented a big challenge.
"The process of adjusting to online learning was quite difficult, especially as a Year 12 student where your education really matters," she said.
"Thankfully, we are very lucky to have access to technology to help, but there are still huge disparities between each student and each school and how we all learn."
Miss Sabay is also a part of the NSW Youth Parliament as a Wagga representative, where a select group of young people explore issues within their communities and liaise with state members of Parliament.
"One of my friends on the committee is focusing on the issue of COVID-19 and education for a project, and she found that it was an inconvenience not being able to go on educational excursions like to the courts, say, and without these it's detrimental to a lot of higher level courses," she said.
"But then even just the little things like not being able to participate in events with friends during such a milestone year is hard as a result of COVID-19."
The toll on mental health was another key issue faced by youth in 2020, compounded by the pandemic.
"With mental health, it's already hard as it is having limited resources, or even having to travel out of town to access a resource, and now with restrictions in place, that's even harder," Miss Sabay said.
"I imagine, too, for people who might not have access to the internet or technology during these times, they might have extra inhibitions accessing important healthcare providers who now rely on telecommunications."
In other news:
Miss Sabay has taken the opportunity as part of the Youth Parliament to advocate for a specific area of mental health in Wagga.
"I'm actually looking specifically into the mental health support available in the refugee and multicultural communities of Wagga, and looking at improving their access to that support," she said.
"I see that there are more mainstream programs targeted to general audiences, and I guess with school children they become more exposed to these types of things and there is less of a stigma around these issues, but for cultural communities, there might be an underlying presumption about the topic which would make it difficult for them to reach out.
"Even with support in place - and there are a number of support options available - we need to break down those barriers and that stigma so they have the confidence to access the help."
While the tough times are ongoing, Miss Sabay said the morale around school remained positive, and students and staff were adjusting as best they could.