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Twelve excited Year 9 students celebrated the conclusion of the Connect9 mentoring program recently.  Perfect weather greeted the young people as they began the day with their final Connect9 activity, a free glider flight over Benalla.

Developed and run by Tomorrow Today Foundation as part of the Education Benalla Program, Connect9 is run twice each year.  Students in Year 9 are individually matched with a well-connected local volunteer who over the course of one school term, gives their time to support the young person to learn new skills, try a new sport or hobby, investigate career options and build their local connections.

Research has shown that programs such as this not only help young people to feel more part of their community, but also increase the likelihood of them continuing their education.  Priority is given to students who are not engaged in community activities or may be facing challenges at home or at school.

Following the glider flights, the participants, their mentors, families and friends gathered at the Benalla Gliding Club for a barbecue lunch.  In celebrating the completion of the ten-week program, the teenagers and their mentors spoke about the highlights of the program.

Activities included a gym workout at the Benalla Aquatic Centre, ‘Race around the Library’, cooking and sharing a meal at the Stephanie Alexander kitchen at Waller Campus and options such as archery, blacksmithing and going to the movies at BPACC.  Highlights for the mentees included the gym and boxing sessions, learning new skills such as blacksmithing, talking to tradies and the exhilarating glider flight. The mentors praised the program, saying that they had learnt as much as the mentees, and that it gave them a new appreciation for the young people in our community.

Cathy Hair, the Connect9 coordinator, thanked everyone for their involvement. “It is always wonderful to see our young people grow in confidence and maturity over the length of the program”, she said.

More volunteer mentors are needed for the 2019 Connect9 programs.  If you are interested in becoming a mentor to a Year 9 student for one school term (either April to June or July to September) please contact Cathy Hair, Student Wellbeing Coordinator at Tomorrow Today on 5762 1211.

Scott and Harry