I would like to start by commending Zac and the staff from the 'My Future Matters Program' and Woolyungah for the wonderful relationships that we at Warilla High School have fostered over the years.
We have been on an incredible journey that has had a profound impact not only on our students but staff as well.
The 'My Future Matters' program has been a beacon of hope, empowerment, and cultural resurgence. As we reflect on the milestones and potential amazing experiences within the program, we are reminded of the resilience, wisdom, and the unique heritage of Aboriginal people.
The 'My Future Matters' program is not merely a venture, it is a testament to the commitment towards fostering inclusivity, understanding, and appreciation for the rich tapestry of Indigenous culture. At its core, this initiative is a bridge, connecting our students to the endless possibilities available to them.
One of the programs undeniable highlights is its emphasis on education through culture. Throughout our time involved in the program we have seen the blossoming of educational initiatives that honour traditional knowledge whilst equipping students with the tools to navigate the modern world. The potential outcomes lie in the cultivation of a generation that is not only academically empowered but deeply rooted in their cultural identity.
At the in-school visits, it is wonderful to see the relationships formed between mentors and students. Some of our student’s start off shy, with a 'shame job' mentality but with the invaluable guidance, encouragement, and personal stories of the mentors our students come to life.
The workshops and activities conducted as part of the program focus on skill development. Whether its enhancing communication skills, critical thinking or problem solving, these workshops contribute to our students overall personal and professional development.
At these visits, students get a glimpse into real world University applications and the mentors themselves. They can look at their own academic pursuits and can get a deeper understanding of the relevance of education in the professional landscape.
They see before them people just like them, people who had not liked school, people from backgrounds like theirs and we see our students start to have the belief that they could possibly be on the same path, go to university and be successful. It is in these yarning sessions with their mentors that they believe this is achievable, there might just be a brighter future and stereotypes broken.
Our visit to the University campus is a transformative experience for students. Being immersed in the university environment exposes them to higher education settings, campus facilities, and the vibrant atmosphere. This first hand exposure can demystify the university experience and motivate students to aspire for higher education.
Being on campus and visiting various faculties with hands on experience provides valuable insights into various career paths and educational opportunities. Through these visits students get the chance to explore different fields, understand academic pathways and gain a clear vision of their future career pathways.
A feel-good story and highlight for me this year was seeing a young Year 7 boy from our support unit engage with this program. This young person comes from a huge family and does not always get to partake in programs. On the day of the on campus visit I had arranged to pick him up at 7.15am for the early bus. Once at the house there is no sign of any movement. Knock on the door and mum answers and he is still in bed. He quickly gets ready and comes out with the biggest smile. The bus trip in is a big moment for him. He is just so excited to be going. At the University, the students are put into groups and split from peers. I suddenly start to panic for him. How will he cope? Will he be, ok? Will the other kids talk to him?
There was no need for me to worry. He was perfectly fine. He fitted in as if he just belonged all along. He proudly showed off his art skills in the cultural art session. He chatted away all day making friends along the way. The highlight was winning a lucky door prize at the very end of the day. He came away from that day on an absolute high, is still talking about it today and now believes he will become a scientist or a doctor.
So, to conclude I think we can all agree that the 'My Future Matters' program goes above and beyond to equip students with the skills, insights and support they need educationally and culturally to be successful in life.