The Diversitat Youth Department began its proud journey over 15 years ago, starting off as the SWEET (Success With Education, Employment and Training) Program. Originally beginning with 10 students, the Department has since grown, and now has up to 80 students enrolled. Students come from varying degrees of wellbeing background issues, including homelessness, drug and alcohol issues, mental health issues, and gender identity issues.
Students may come to the Youth Department through their mainstream school within the Geelong region, or be be referred by wellbeing agencies, employment services, Centrelink, and other training providers.
With the motto “to not leave any young person behind”, the Department’s core goal and objective is to engage young people in education, make a difference in their lives, and allow them to fulfil their full potential.
Often staff members will work with students who were viewed as the “worst of the worst” back at their high school, and then become one of the best students at the Youth Department. Thus, showcasing the diligent work of the staff members towards guiding and helping their students.
The two main programs and services that the Department offer include the Young Parents, and Youth Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) Programs.
Introduced in 2012, the Young Parents Program is aimed at young parents aged between 15 – 21 years old. Here, these young parents may bring their children into the classroom in a small group setting, where they will learn many important parenting and life skills.
The Youth VCAL Program is directed towards those aged between 14 – 20 years old, who are disengaged from mainstream school and employment. With a hands-on approach and flexible curriculum, teachers will design projects based on the needs and interests of their students, further highlighting their kindness and dedication towards helping their students.
Diversitat Youth is primarily funded through the Department of Education, through the Higher Skills funding. Additionally, for the students still enrolled in their respective high school, the school will fund that student’s enrolment, typically through a Memorandum of Understanding.
There have been countless success stories that have occurred over the years at the Youth Department. Over the past two years, the number of students receiving their VCAL from the Youth Department has increased. This is a proud achievement for the students and teachers, as these students have had to face so many issues and barriers along the way to achieving their VCAL.
Additionally, one female student completed her VCAL, then completed a bridging to nursery at TAFE, and is currently studying her Diploma of Nursing. She is hoping to study a Nursing Degree at University in 2018. This is an astounding achievement, as she suffered from anxiety and depression, and is now on the path to reaching her dream career.
Witnessing such success makes teachers feel extremely happy, as they are “making a difference” to these student’s lives. They feel very proud of the student’s achievements, and of the staff for persisting with the students to help them achieve their goals.
In the future, the Youth Department is aspiring to grow their programs, and reach out to more students in need. They also hope to see more students successfully complete their VCAL. Additional Government support and donations through philanthropic funds would greatly assist the Department in growing their programs and services.