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A program that gives Benalla young people confidence and skills to continue their education has saved some of them from a possible lifetime of unemployment or welfare, according to one of the teachers involved.

Peter Janas was a teacher in the Hands on Learning program at Benalla P-12 College for five years and said the benefits he saw were remarkable.

“The young people overcame issues that were holding them back such as lack of confidence, learning difficulties or family pressures.  Through the program they discovered they had skills and other attributes that are valued by the community,” Mr Janas said.

“A number of students take part in Hands on Learning because they have disengaged from school.  If they continued to stay away from school and didn’t get an education, they may never have found a job and would more likely be looking at a future on welfare.

“The fact that the program helped some young people to deal with their issues really turned individual lives around.”

Hands on Learning is a small group of 10 students who work with adults on real projects such as maintenance or building things like public seating. We use real tools and treat the students as adults. They realise they can do things and this has led to many returning to their other school classes and completing their education. For several I worked with, it led to school-based apprenticeships and jobs. It’s really rewarding to see that growth in your students,” Mr Janas said.

Mr Janas said through Hands on Learning community projects, the community has gained infrastructure it wouldn’t have otherwise.  Working on this infrastructure reconnected some of the students with the wider community, which benefits everyone in Benalla.

Hands on Learning is supported in Benalla through the Tomorrow Today Foundation.

Foundation Executive Officer, Pat Claridge said the key to overcoming disadvantage is education.

“The school results show a drop in absenteeism and suspension rates for 12 to 16 year-old students in Benalla in the time the Hands on Learning program has been running. This means more Benalla young people are better engaged at school and continuing their education,” she said.

“Like Peter, we are delighted to see the benefits for individual students from the supportive environment Hands on Learning provides. We look forward to continuing to assist students to re-engage with their education and their community – after all, they are our future.”

The program started at Benalla P-12 College in 2010 and FCJ College in 2013 for 12 to 16 year-old students. In 2014 it was expanded at P-12 College to include Years 5 and 6 students.

HOL Toasting Fork