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A great celebration was held recently at Benalla Airport to mark the conclusion of the most recent Connect9 mentoring program.  Connect9 is run twice a year and is unique to Benalla.

Year 9 students 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 increases 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.

The young people began the day with a free glider flight, the final Connect9 activity, giving them a birds-eye view of their home town.  For many this was a highlight.  “My favorite part was the glider flight, I loved it.  It was just amazing being up in the air and just watching everything.”

Following the flight, 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.

“I liked all the activities” was a common response.  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 St campus and options such as archery, blacksmithing and going to the movies at BPACC.  Career exploration was popular too, with two students identifying the GOTAFE Career Voyage experience and visiting a local auto mechanic as their respective high points.  One student was enthusiastic about having the chance to learn more about her area of interest, spending time with her mentor at a taxidermist in Mansfield.   Other highlights were “meeting my awesome mentor”, experiencing new things and making new friends.

The mentors praised the program, saying that they had learnt as much as the mentees, and that that it gave them a new appreciation for the young people in our community.

Developed and run by Tomorrow Today Foundation as part of the Education Benalla Program, this was the twelfth Connect9 program since it started in 2011.  Sally Gamble, Chair of Tomorrow Today thanked the many partners who assisted with the program, making the wide range of activities possible.  She commended the students and their families for committing to the program and made special mention of the mentors who give so freely of their time, talents and expertise to support youth in our community.

More volunteer mentors are need_DSC4717ed for the 2018 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.