STUDENTS struggling to stay in school have received a welcome boost with the launch of The 20th Man Fund's annual 'Back to School' program.
Braybrook-raised author Alice Pung, Sunshine College teacher Alan Dalton and lawyer Robert Stary spoke during an event last week to highlight the help available to students from disadvantaged families.
Carlton footballer Heath Scotland also delivered a speech before donating $20,000.
In its 24th year, the program will provide financial support throughout the year to help more than 300 children from 70 secondary schools and 20 tertiary institutions.
Since 1989, the program has helped keep more than 8000 kids from disadvantaged backgrounds stay in school.
Ms Pung said the 20th Man Fund had helped many of her friends growing up in the western suburbs in the '80s.
Mr Twentyman said he would like to expand the program to help more children.
"The problems out there are huge and outside the direct contact to the fund. We get referrals from schools, youth hostels, refugee support groups, the Department of Human Services, Centrelink, even the Salvation Army, and each year have to turn away so many due to a lack of funds," he said.
"To not be able to help so many each year is truly heartbreaking."