By Laura Michell
Some of Hume’s most disadvantaged students will receive help to turn their lives around, with a new program offering them the chance to gain qualifications such as first aid and food handling certificates, white cards and barista training.
The Gateway School, which is a campus of Roxburgh College, has launched a Future Connections Program to help its students gain “essential qualifications and skills” to secure part-time and earn money while they study.
The school, which was devised by Roxburgh College principal Fernando Ianni and staff, opened about seven years ago with five students who were disengaged from mainstream education.
It now has 60 students across four classes and a waiting list comprising a number of people who were referred to the school by current students.
VET and VCAL co-ordinator Laura Greaves said the school’s students have all been disengaged from education for at least six months, with some involved in the juvenile justice system or drug use.
She said most students had experienced some sort of trauma in their personal lives but were determined to get an education and turn their lives around.
“They just want to learn,” she said.
“They deserve so much better.”
Ms Greaves said the Future Connections Program was a chance for the students to upskill and boost their chances of gaining employment.
According to Mr Ianni, 80 per cent of the school’s students are not learning or earning six months after leaving school.
Ms Greaves hopes the qualifications would lead students to part-time work, allowing them to help support their families.
“For some, there is no money to put food on the table,” she said.
“A lot of our students… they ended up doing crime just to get money and ended up behind a big wall in the city.
“This allows them to get a part-time job, get some money and not have to drop out.”
The program recently received funding from national charity Schools Plus, which has partnered with Aptum Legal to provide support to students.
Aptum Legal staff will provide mentoring, conduct mock interviews and chat with students about the challenges they are facing throughout the year.
Ms Greaves said the partnership would help “bridge the gap” between the students and police and lawyers.
“It is going to make a huge difference,” she said.