The 2018 cohort of CEP Rural Youth Ambassadors has met for the final time at a group conference in Melbourne.
Together, the group shared their concluding ideas on issues including prioritisation of career education, access to universities, and providing inspiration for rural students to build aspirations.
Preparing to farewell the cohort (but not really because he always keeps in contact), CEP Chief Executive Phil Brown said he was incredibly proud of the group’s achievements this year.
“This cohort has been a particularly wonderful group to work with — they’re passionate and they’re driven and I can see how much they’ve grown as individuals,” Mr Brown said.
“Perhaps most importantly, they’ve consistently demonstrated why we, the education system, need to listen more to what our students have to say about rural education because it’s invaluable,” he said.
“I thank every participant for their involvement and hope they’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.”s
And it turns out … they have.
Here’s some parting thoughts from the Rural Youth Ambassador Class of 2018.
“When I first came to the RYA program I didn’t have any idea what to expect, I thought I’d just go with the flow and see what came of it. But I’ve loved it. I’ve embraced new experiences, made strong friendships and I’ve definitely opened-up as a person. I think we (rural students) should have a say in the direction of rural education because we are the ones living it and I don’t believe people in the city, who’ve never experience life in a rural setting, can truly appreciate the challenges we face.” — Maggy Sessions, Nathalia Secondary College
“Being involved with RYA has opened my mind to different options I have in my education and what I want to do when I finish school. I’ve loved meeting new people and the way that RYA has given me a voice, so to speak. I’ve been able to share my thoughts about our education with the people who decide what our education will be … I think that’s pretty cool.” — Brandy Santon, Maryborough Education Centre
“What has been the best part of RYA? Being able to form connections with people living in similar situations and environments outside of my immediate community, making it possible to have discussions and ask questions that I had not previously been exposed to. Also, I’ve relished being able to have a voice for both my school and community. This is really important because it’s not something that many young, rural people have the opportunity to do.” — Sophie Walter, Goroke P-12 College
“Through being involved in RYA I believe I’ve discovered a passion for student advocacy. I have learnt of the potential I hold to make a difference. In my opinion it is extremely important for students to have a say in shaping the education system and this program as integral to that.” — Tom Poulton, Tallangatta Secondary College
“I’ve loved it; I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. RYA has been an invaluable experience and it’s helped me grow confidence and conviction. To me, it’s incredibly important that there are avenues, such as RYA, for rural students to be heard on the issues that are shaping and influencing our education because living in a rural setting does have an impact, it does require a different approach.” — Ciara Fitzpatrick, Timboon P-12
“Being a Rural Youth Ambassador has opened my eyes to all the possibilities I have for my future. It has helped me grow as an independent person.” — Megan Thorn, Mary MacKillop College, Leongatha
“RYA has opened my mind to different pathways through education that I’d never really considered before. I want to study Law and International Relations and this (RYA) has really helped make up my mind. I’ve really enjoyed being able to have a say on our education and, to me, it makes sense that we should be listened to because we are in the system and we can clearly identify issues from the inside.” — Ella Gleeson, Mercy Regional College, Camperdown
“I’ve really enjoyed meeting so many like-minded people who are in the RYA group. It can be quite difficult to find people in my community who have the same mindset as me and who want to discuss the sort of ideas we have discussed as Ambassadors. Overall the experience has been a refreshing and welcome surprise. I think concepts like this are super important; there’s no point having people completely unrelated to rural schools making all of the decisions for us and thinking they’re ‘doing what’s best’ when its not what’s best for us in the country.” — Remmi King, Kaniva College
“I don’t really know I want to do after school yet but this program has motivated me to find my dream and chase it. I’ve seen growth in myself; this experience has broadened by mind and increased my self-belief. I think what we’re doing by giving feedback on rural education is incredibly important because grown-ups see things from a different perspective. They have an experience of education, of course, but that was then and this is now. Things change.” — Shekienah Labiran, Donald High School
“By being a Rural Youth Ambassador with the Country Education Partnership I’ve realises that I have a voice and that I’m able to get up in front of people and speak my ideas.” — Lara Mudie, Murrayville Community College
“The greatest thing I obtained from the RYA program is confidence. After being immersed in the amazing environment that the program harbours, I had the confidence to apply for school captain; a role which I was never really going to pursue until my involvement with RYA. I was elected as school captain, as well as house captain, and I owe it all to CEP and the Rural Youth Ambassadorship.” — Samuel Rice, St Arnaud Secondary
“For me, this program has been about exposing myself to new experiences, to what is actually ‘out there’ beyond my town, and to new people. Building relationships and realising the importance of them has been the most significant and life-changing part of my journey. As for the importance of us having a say on rural education, I’d say it’s beyond important because rural students ARE rural education. It should be tailored according to us because it is for us. It should be based on rural experiences rather than the assumptions of people who have little to no experience of country life. And the way to make sure this happens is by receiving feedback from rural students about their rural education.” — Breanna Johnson, Marian College, Myrtleford
“Being a Rural Ambassador has been absolutely incredible — the self-development it enables and the relationships you establish; it’s something special. Through the year we have debated issues that are directly impacting our education and it’s been a pretty powerful experience.” — Joel Findlay, Korumburra Secondary College