2622: A Community Supporting Learning

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It is interview week for this year’s twenty-one applicants to the Braidwood and District Education Foundation.

I am very fortunate to be a member of the interview panel this year along with Libby Collard and Amanda Hall. We are holding the interviews at the Braidwood Services Club. By the end of Friday, we will have met and spoken with all twenty-one young people who applied and who live in Braidwood and the surrounding areas (2622). Trish Solomon, who has been with the Foundation since 2005, is our front of house person to reassure nervous candidates.

The Foundation was established to provide financial assistance and support to young people to help them achieve their post high school education, training and vocation aspirations. It is one of forty foundations in the nationwide Country Education Foundation.

Since its establishment eleven years ago, the Foundation has provided support to 120 young people on their educational journeys after leaving school.

The Foundation works throughout the year to raise funds to support students. There is more information about the Foundation’s work here.

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What has struck me about our conversations with young people this week is the diversity of experiences each of them has and how each of them can benefit from the Foundation’s support. I have been able to learn at first hand some of the issues facing rural students as they pursue higher education and vocational learning opportunities.

One of my memorable moments from Thursday was a telephone conversation with a young electrical apprentice on a building site in Canberra. He had left Braidwood at 5.30am to be on site at 7am and would be home at 7pm. Another memorable moment was learning more about a student who is attending the Australian National University. He has no access to a car so starts his day at 6am with a lift from an outlying village and then catches three buses to be at ANU by 9am. The round trip takes up to five hours.

The Foundation’s website notes:

The Foundation raises funds throughout the year and accepts donations from local residents and businesses in order to provide financial grants to students who need an extra helping hand. The funds come directly from our local community … celebrating the aspirations of local youth and working to help them achieve these aspirations. It’s our way of saying “we believe in you and want to support your goals”.

I have a strong emotional connection with the Foundation’s work. My learning journey came from difficult circumstances but my opportunity to access higher education transformed my life chances.

I am delighted that the Foundation places equal value on vocational education opportunities. Five of this year’s applicants are in apprenticeships. Their stories are compelling as they work their way through low wage employment to secure their papers. The Foundation’s support of their purchase of tools of the trade and travel costs to TAFE or CIT classes has an enormous impact on their flourishing.

Away from the Foundation’s work, I spend much of my time working to encourage learning communities. My experiences are often with people in other parts of the world. More and more, I use Braidwood as an example of a community that invests in learning.

This is a remarkable town that has remarkable young people. The Foundation is an outstanding way to support some of these people every year. Each has a special story to share.

One of this year’s candidates made this video as part of his learning journey in computer science … whilst at school. I like the idea that the Foundation cares for people who care.

Photo Credits

Braidwood Main Street (Peter Konnecke, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Melbourne Cup at Garan Vale 2015 (Braidwood Times)

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