Initially students visited Hamilton Public School weekly, assisting volunteers who took Special Religious Education (SRE) classes. The students would be aware of the lesson plan and would act as conduits between the volunteer leaders and the younger pupils.
Now the program has blossomed and the senior students’ remit includes whatever support is most helpful. It could involve assistance with RE, mathematics, English, PE or special events such as NAIDOC Week.
Careers Advisor Julie McLoughlin oversees morning, middle and afternoon groups, comprising some 20 Year 11 and 12 students each term. While some students are keen to return to ‘their’ school, it’s an important principle that as many students as possible have the opportunity.
Currently Hamilton Public School, St Pius X Primary at Windale and St Joseph’s Primary at Merewether welcome students weekly.
There are obvious benefits to be gained in terms of building confidence, experiencing being ‘on the other side of the desk’ as it were and even identifying a possible career direction.
However, when I spoke to Paige Cameron and Sophie Gonano, both of Year 11, they were most enthusiastic about the experience of ‘working’ weekly with the same students and building genuine relationships.
As Paige said, “They would look forward to seeing us and if we had to miss a week, they would be disappointed.”
Sophie’s experience has been similar and she has valued the opportunity to assist students ‘one on one’. “I had thought about teaching as a career and now I’m confident it’s something I would enjoy and find rewarding,” she said.
Both older and younger students look forward to an end-of-year celebration, to which the SFX community contributes generously.
Julie McLoughlin is delighted to see the benefits that accrue to all parties contributing to this unique model. “It’s wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the students, ‘big ones’ and ‘little ones,’” she said.