A team of 20 students has been unveiled as this year’s Victorian Rural Youth Ambassador (RYA) cohort -- the largest group since the program's inception.
Country Education Partnership (CEP) CEO Phil Brown said the geographical diversity of this year's group was its stand-out feature.
"We've got representatives from as far north as Murrayville, to Tallangatta in the east, Goroke in the west and Foster in the south," Mr Brown said.
"It's a genuine representation of rural Victoria and I think that's a reflection of how the Ambassador profile has grown," he said.
The RYA program was established by CEP in 2011, aiming to provide country students a formal voice on issues affecting their education.
In April, the 2018 cohort met for a three-day orientation forum in Melbourne, where they identified key concerns around student retention in small schools.
"Their overall view was that there are many rewards for being educated in rural and remote communities, such as being able to build strong relationships with their teachers," Mr Brown said.
"But the ambassadors also highlighted a number of areas they feel their education and educational opportunities fall short, particularly in comparison to what their urban peers expect and receive."
In summary, the Rural Youth Ambassadors identified issues stemming from:
less learning opportunities as a result of falling student enrolments
the difficulty of attracting and retaining experienced teachers
lower aspirations among country students
Over the coming 12 months, the ambassadors will formulate their own proposals to help address these issues, with a particular focus on encouraging small schools to work together, and persuading universities to play a more active role in the promotion of country placements for graduate teachers.
Jarryd Carr, Beechworth Secondary College
Joel Findlay, Korrumburra Secondary College
Ciara Fitzpatrick, Timboon College
Ella Gleeson, Mercy College, Camperdown
Kirsty Heintze, Murrayville College
Adam Hurst, Cathedral College, Wangaratta
Ella Jacobsen, Yea Secondary College
Ellie Jones, Cobram Secondary College
Breanna Johnson, Marian College, Myrtleford
Remmi King, Kaniva College
Shekienah Labiran, Donald Secondary College
Lara Mudie, Murrayville College
Tom Poulton, Tallangatta Secondary College
Maggie Sessions, Nathalia Secondary College
Megan Thorne, Mary MacKillop College, Leongatha
Sophie Walter, Goroke College
Charlotte Williams, Tyrell College, Sea Lake
Gabe Yorke, Lorne College
Courtney Zuidema, Foster Secondary College