The last two days I was lucky enough to help out at an overnight camp at uni, which falls under a program called the Deakin Engagement and Access Program (DEAP) run by the Access and Equity team. This camp provides schools meeting certain criteria such as being socio-economically disadvantaged or having a low articulation of students transitioning to university with an opportunity to see what university is like. They even got to stay at the Student Village, or what we call rez, which even I was excited about as I always wanted experience life as a rezzie. For many of these students, they come from a family who have never completed university. They could grow up thinking that going to university is beyond their reach. And being only in year 9, further study is probably the last things on their minds at the tender age of 15. I know that personally, I never th0ught about university or its alternatives until I first heard about it in year 10 or 11.
Going to university is a huge milestone and achievement for families who have never had the opportunity to do so. I know my parents and grandparents were certainly, extraordinarily proud when I got into uni, let alone graduating or graduating with distinction or graduating with first class honours!! (Maybe I just like being an over-achiever) I take pride that I come from a public school and had no formal tutoring outside of school. It goes to show that hard work does pay off and you reap what you sow. Each time I get a chance to speak to these kids about their future aspirations, I try and highlight this point to them. You don’t have to be super smart to get into uni. Just work hard, do all the work, be organised and you’ll get there. There’s no doubt you’ll encounter road blocks along the way. Be it whether you don’t achieve the ATAR score you needed or you had an epiphany that you would rather study business rather than science, it is possible to work around it. It may be a longer route to where you eventually want to end up but you will be building up resilience and life experiences along the way. Sometimes, I think that those life lessons, which cannot be learned from books, are far more important than taking a straight road in life.
So anyway, going off on a tangent there, this was the first ever camp ran by Access and Equity team and it was to be based around film making. Students break off into teams and work on producing and filming a short movie about anything they wish. To help them out along the way, there were workshops in each of the related roles involved, such as camera technician, script writing all the way to acting. In between these workshops, there were other ones that talked about careers and pathways to university, a scavenger hunt and gym activities. The program that stood out to me the most was run by the Reach Foundation. Apparently it’s common for everyone to have gone through Reach at some point in their high school life. I, on the other hand, had absolutely no idea what it was or what to expect. All I had heard about it was that it was very inspiring and tears were involved. This got me especially intrigued when I saw that one of the staff was loaded with a bag full of boxes of tissues.
Basically it was a mini life-coaching workshop that spoke of confidence, putting ourselves in others’ shoes, the excuses we hide behind and fear of leaving our comfort zone. Although it was tailored at the year 9s and schooling life, it was very applicable to staff, students and teachers as well, at any stage of our lives. We are the only thing holding ourselves back from reaching towards our dreams and aspirations. As what my musical director at band constantly reminds us – to ignore that voice of doubt and fear in our heads and just go for it, is very true. The fear of judgment and others’ perceptions of us holds us back. Yet, it is also their reactions and/or comments that make or break our pursuit in the things we love. Reach also focused on acknowledging people who are important in our lives and reminded me of how powerful a simple thought can be. The thought of losing that person at any given time, made me realise how important it is to cherish every moment we have with them. Some students were brave enough to share their stories and acknowledgments to everyone in the room and I was amazed at how almost everyone (including teachers, staff and ambassadors) got emotional and was reduced to tears. (Yes, I had my teary moments too and the floating boxes of tissues came in very handy!)
These kids may only be 15 or 16, but in my eyes, they are amazing individuals. Sometimes we overlook their past, experiences and stories they have to share simply because of age. It’s a terrible habit to have, which I am guilty of at times. I have been absolutely blown away by the level of maturity some of the kids in the generation we love to hate show when you start talking to them and look past their teenage angst. This camp reminded me strongly of my first diabetes camp (except with less sleep deprivation and no BIG time), leaving me to feel very humbled, which is exactly the reason why I love working with kids.