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It was a somewhat unusual setting for the Venturers – an online Zoom chat rather than a Scout Hall meeting or mountainous hike – but that didn’t prevent new connections and new experiences at their meetup with Connect9 last week.

Connect9 is a program unique to Benalla, run by Tomorrow Today, which connects Year 9 students with local mentors and to the local community. The young people have the opportunity to learn new skills, try new sports or hobbies, investigate career options and build their local connections thanks to partnerships with many local community organisations.

Usually, a visit to the Benalla Scout Hall to meet the Venturers is one of the activities offered during the ten week Connect9 program.

For their part, the Venturers – a youth-led, adult-supported group – usually meet to socialise, discuss ideas, and plan hikes, camps and other activities that count towards Scout awards. Awards can earn vocational qualifications and count towards VCE and even university entrance.

In the times of social distancing, though, ingenuity was needed, and an online game of Uno provided all the interaction necessary to spark connections. Quite a few conversations started about how these young people might meet up IRL – that’s ‘in real life’, in case you don’t speak the young people’s language!

The leadership and volunteers of both Scouts Victoria and Tomorrow Today have been recognised for the agility and dedication they have shown in continuing to offer programs via online, phone and other socially-distanced means during this period.

Tomorrow Today's Connect9 participants met up with Benalla Venturers for a game of Uno online

Tomorrow Today’s Connect9 participants met up with Benalla Venturers for a game of Uno online