A volunteer mentor program is giving disadvantaged students a more positive experience at school ⸺ and it's set to grow across Victoria.
EdConnect is a not-for-profit organisation connecting volunteers, predominantly retirees, with students who are at risk of becoming disengaged with school.
Volunteers can participate in a range of school activities. At Bayside P-12's Williamstown campus, a retired industrial chemist tutors science students, while a retired teacher coaches students in an intensive maths intervention program.
Other volunteers are involved in classroom support, literature, cooking and Kitchen Garden programs.
Making a difference
Tom* at Geelong High School has information processing speed issues. While he's a bright young man, it's challenging for him to quickly recall information and ideas so he lacks the confidence to write, and this affects his literacy learning. With the help of a volunteer, Tom became more motivated to write.
'Tom has written more in [EdConnect] sessions than at any other time in high school,' Geelong High School Literacy Coordinator Sam Rogers said to EdConnect.
'His confidence in writing has improved; Tom specifically told me that he is writing more in classes as a result of your sessions.'
Another EdConnect volunteer, Deirdre, worked in animal welfare overseas for over 20 years and recently came back to Australia to retire. She assists with reading at Mt Duneed Primary School and with Geelong High School's Community Involvement program. Her animal welfare expertise is a huge benefit to Geelong High School students as they learn about sustainability, the environment and animals.
Despite identifying some challenging students, Deidre has formed connections with them. One student gave her a drawing he made in class.
'I was so touched, because it was the boy that I had had some difficulty with a few weeks earlier,' Deirdre says.
'And there's an autistic boy I am teamed up with for projects; he's very sweet and we get on well together.'
'I'm grateful to EdConnect for providing this great opportunity, which has helped tremendously in my becoming familiar with the Geelong community on my return to Australia after so many years away.'
Inner-west region volunteer Les, who helps EAL students with reading, says the program benefits volunteers too.
'I also believe that I learn as much from these young people as they learn from me; they keep me on my toes!' Les says.
More schools to benefit from EdConnect
In 2016, School Coordinators reported positive impacts of EdConnect at their schools:
- 91% improved literacy
- 87% improved numeracy
- 93% improved concentration
- 93% reduction in disruptive behaviour
- 91% better participation in school activities
Impact Statement 2016)
In Victoria, EdConnect operates in 45 schools across the Geelong and Surf Coast, Inner-west and Northern regions.
Because of its immense positive impact on school communities, the Victorian government is committing $300,000 over the next three years to fund EdConnect so it can be self-sustainable and grow into the new North-west region.
Programs such as EdConnect are helping schools improve reading and maths achievement, increase student resilience and create equality for our disadvantaged students.
*Name changed for confidentiality