Like Ducks to Water
The Country Education Partnership’s (CEP) 2019 cohort of Rural Youth Ambassadors has met for the first time at a three-day group seminar in Melbourne.
The twenty youths, who each hail from rural and remote Victorian communities, were nominated for the esteemed program by their school principals.
CEP Chief Executive Phil Brown said the Year 11 students embraced the “Ambassador Culture” much like ducks to water.
“Every year it is quite interesting to see how the kids will interact when they meet for the first time because they each bring such a blend of personalities, opinions and interests,” he said.
“This year was no different but what did stand out was the level of engagement from the group; they’re a truly impressive bunch and I think we’re going to have a very memorable year together.”
In 2019, the Rural Youth Ambassadors will continue the work of their predecessors, maintaining dialogue with key government ministers and education stakeholders about the fundamental issues affecting country education in Victoria.
This year, the cohort has highlighted teacher retention, reduced learning opportunities due to isolation and mental health services as some of their main concerns.
The Rural Youth Ambassador Program was initiated by CEP in 2011 as a strategy to lift student aspirations in rural school communities, while also providing a formal state-wide voice for country students to have their say on issues affecting their education.
Since then, almost 200 students have passed through the program.
Earlier this year, Education Minister James Merlino paid tribute to the Ambassador Alumni for their role in the initiation of Victoria’s expanded online learning syllabus and VCE Collaboration Fund, which has been introduced this year following an election pledge from the Victorian Government.
Comments from 2019 Ambassadors:
“I’m impressed so far. I think it is an awesome program and I believe that anybody that is given the chance to participate should take it by the reins, as it truly does allow us to make a difference in rural education.”
– Toby Fleming, Mercy Regional College, Camperdown
“Like everyone else, at the beginning I was quite scared because this opportunity was really pushing me to step out of my comfort zone to mix with people that I had never met before. Now, however, I am so happy that I have taken this opportunity to become a Rural Youth Ambassado and although we have only attended one forum, I think we each have a great deal to offer to the group …”
— Sarah Primerano, Marian College, Ararat
“At the start of this year I made a goal for myself and that goal was to say ‘yes’ to things that would usually scare me, and to put my hand up for anything that would help me grow as a person. When this opportunity came along I didn’t really want to do it but I stayed true to my goal and said I’d do it. Coming down to the forum I was a little scared but also excited that I was stepping out and doing something for me. I was happy that we (the ambassadors) found a common ground and could discuss our issues together. I feel like we all have a lot of potential as a group.”
– Caitlin Britten, Maryborough Education Centre
“The first forum was not like anything I had expected. I felt a little unsure, not knowing what I was getting into, but once I got there, I felt inspired to think deeper about issues affecting our education. I feel very honoured and grateful that I have been chosen because this is a unique opportunity for me to help improve education in rural Victoria.”
– Emily Shanahan, Timboon College
2019 Rural Youth Ambassadors
Andrea Axford — Korumburra Secondary College
Molly Kent — Mary MacKillop College, Leongatha
Jade Bennier — Murrayville College
Drew Madden — Nathalia Secondary College
Meg Boag — Mansfield Secondary College
Teagan Mitchell — Cobram Secondary College
Caitlin Britten — Maryborough Education Centre
Pippa Munn — Kaniva College
Daniel Exton — Yea Secondary College
Sarah Primerano — Marian College, Ararat
Arnika Filippi — Bright College
Emily Shanahan — Timboon College
Toby Fleming — Mercy Regional College, Camperdown
Isabelle Sheperd — Tyrell College, Sea Lake
Tom George — Donald High School
Brad Skidmore — St Marys of the Angels, Nathalia
Zoe Grayson — Bright College
Oliver Wright — Mercy Regional College, Camperdown
Angel Haigh — Manangatang P-12
Jessica Hughes — Goroke College