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Tomorrow Today’s Connect9 program has brought together Benalla Year 9 student Jack Dekleuver with community mentors to explore a passion for trains.

As part of the Connect9 program, students are supported to discover new sports and hobbies, expand their local connections, and set life and career goals.

Early in this year’s Term 3 program, Connect9 coordinator Karen Curl and mentor Ashley Bolitho recognised in Jack a passion for trains. ’When young people start the program, we ask them to name three things they are interested in pursuing or passionate about’ says Karen. ‘For Jack, I think all three were trains!’ When looking to the local community for a way to support this passion, Benalla local Philip Rees offered special expertise, having worked on the railways for 32 years.

At a behind-the-scenes visit last week, Philip shared with Jack historic network maps dating back to 1946, train control charts, books about how trains are made, and a close-up look at a ballast train that came into the station.

‘The best thing about matching up Jack and Philip was the shared enthusiasm,’ say Karen. ‘Phil wanted to tell Jack everything about trains, and Jack wanted to know it all!’’

Philip shared stories of his long career, and the many facets of the work, saying ‘whatever you want to do in life, you can do it with trains – you can travel all over Australia, even the world.’

Angela Dekleuver reflected on Jack’s experience, ‘Jack just loved it. He was so excited; it’s all he wants to do, work on the railways. He got a bit of a buzz out of meeting someone who works for V-Line. Being able to be there, and get behind the scenes, makes it more real for him. Phil spoke to him about everything to do with the railways and gave him some maps – he wants to put them up on his wall at home now. Our family was so appreciative that Jack had the opportunity to do this.’

‘This is really important to a young person,’ reports Karen, ‘new experiences give young people a sneak peek of where their life could go if they give something a go and stick at it.  I hope that Jack knows now that the world is wide open for him, and there are opportunities right here in Benalla.’