11 September 2019

Bega Valley Youth Frontiers canvass mountain biking, youth depression and Lyme disease

| Elka Wood
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Bega High School counsellor Pippa, student Jazmin, 13, and mentor Gabrielle Jouney-Jones make their pitch. Photo: Elka Wood.

Bega High School counsellor Pippa Whyte, student Jazmin Cooper, 13, and mentor Gabrielle Journey-Jones make their pitch. Photos: Elka Wood.

Students from Bega Valley high schools have been asked to come up with an idea which addresses a problem they see in their community and after three months of working on their plans with adult mentors, the students pitched their ideas this week to members of the community at Bega’s University of Wollongong Campus.

The program, Youth frontiers, is run by the YWCA and is headed by coordinator Jodie Stewart in Bega.

“Our Pitch-it sessions are an opportunity for mentees to test their early project ideas by communicating the essence of their project in a three-minute pitch to interested community panellists.”

There were ideas flying on the day – students Loki Lambert, Finnley McKechnie, Luke Iodice want to build a mountain bike trail near Bega, a solution to getting kids outside and addressing the health issues related to a lack of activity, while India Hartley plans to hold an event to improve awareness of Lyme disease in the area.

“Pitching can be a daunting experience for most adults but all our mentees approached the task with aplomb!” Jodie says.

The 11 groups of students, aged 12 to 16, have met with their mentors for two hours a week since the program began in May to devise and execute a community project or activity to be completed over six months.

Youth Frontiers coordinator in Bega, Jodie Stewart. Photo: Elka Wood.

Youth Frontiers coordinator in Bega, Jodie Stewart.

The perceived community problems and solutions the students have come up with are diverse and show a high level of thinking outside their own social and physical realities, with groups pitching everything from a fashion show for people with disabilities to a new animal shelter in the area.

Mentor Christine Welsh has been working with Sapphire Coast Anglican College students Amy De Friskbom and Kassie Shipton, who are organizing the fashion show.

“The girls are really stretching themselves, they’ve had to slow down and think about the steps,” says Christine, who runs Sapphire Community Pantry in her spare time.

“I’ve run a lot of events and I know how much work it is and it’s impressive to watch them learn skills like cold-calling to ask for what they want.”

Amy and Kassie with mentor Christine Welsh, far right, pitch to Bendigo Bank. Photo: Elka Wood.

Amy De Friskbom and Kassie Shipton with mentor Christine Welsh, far right, pitch to Bendigo Bank.

While Kassie and Amy are explaining their fashion show to me, Jazmin Cooper, who is 13 and attends Bega High School, overhears the conversation.

“Did you say fashion for people with a disability?” she asks, delightedly. “I have a disability! Can I be in your show?”

Gabrielle Journey-Jones has been mentoring Jazmin as she develops a plan for a ‘calm zone’ in her school to help students suffering depression or just needing a quiet place to calm down.

“I have done some mentoring before,” Gabrielle says thoughtfully, “but it was a long time ago, mentoring CEOs to implement disability services. This is pretty different, there are a lot less resources!”

Still, Gabrielle thinks of her day mentoring as “a whole day doing what I love.”

Sapphire Coast Anglican College principal Tracey Gray chatted with some of her students after they made their pitch. Photo: Elka Wood.

Sapphire Coast Anglican College principal Tracey Gray [left] chatted with some of her students after they made their pitch.

Bega’s Bendigo Bank manager Phillip Smith and chair of the Bendigo board Colin Dunn are among those community members volunteering to be the sounding board for pitches.

After hearing Kassie and Amy, Phillip commented that their pitch was really good and that listening to it was “more fun than a loan interview, which is what we usually do”.

Jodie is looking forward to seeing how the students incorporate the feedback they received into their project plans.

“With Pitch-it under their belts, they are ready to move on to the implementation stage of their project,” she says, adding that she is grateful to the community panellists – Doug Reckord, Mia Maze, Chris Brennan-Horley, Scott Baker, Philip Smith, Colin Dunn and Paul Coker.

“Thanks also to the University Of Wollongong, Bega Campus and to our mentors, without whom this project could not have happened!”

Stay tuned for more news about these youth-led community events, which will be rolled out in September-October.

For more information, visit Youth Frontiers.

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Nienke Haantjens10:38 am 01 Aug 19

fantastic article! It’s good to hear about the good things going on in our community

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