Students step up

THE first Step Up youth summit, held at the new Wellington Centre at the Port of Sale, has encouraged young people to make practical changes to Wellington Shire.

More than 70 young people, from every secondary school in the shire, talked through ideas with their peers.

Sessions were led by youth facilitators, with the adults stepping back much as possible.

Wellington Shire youth liaison coordinator Meg Capurso said it was a successful day, with some interesting projects that young people were enthusiastic about.

“There were so many things people put their hands up for, but we’ll come out with three projects, then we’ll put a call-out for all those people to come in and finalise it — then we’ll go from there,” she said.

Transport, alcohol and connections were some of the strongest themes, and Ms Capurso was keen to get young people involved to solve problems.

“There’s a few ideas we can lump in together, and a lot of people wanted to get involved again next year,” she said, adding  it would be interesting to see the progress year-by-year.

Yarram Secondary College teacher Melanie Mitchell said the day was worthwhile for her students.

“They’ve got all these things to say and it’s a good chance to meet other young people — we’re a bit isolated down in Yarram,” she said.

“It’s nice to meet people from other schools.

“It ticks so many boxes, but in terms of curriculum, a lot of our reporting is around how well they can collaborate and their understanding of the bigger world around them, engaging, participating — and it can suit students at any age.

“There’s always a couple of similar themes that come out of these sorts of days for our kids, and that is healthy and active programs, or things to do out of school hours,” Ms Mitchell said.

“But transport always comes out, and that’s huge for our kids.

“There’s no public transport between [Yarram] and Sale to be able to access things like the skate park.”

Agencies in the Wellington Youth Services Network were also involved, and the guest speaker, Victorian Young Citizen of the Year Laura Pintur, gave a strong keynote speech about her ‘What’s Normal’ campaign.

The only criticism, according to Ms Capurso, was having to cut sessions short to make school bus times.

“It’s pretty extraordinary, I reckon, to be able to run a whole day and not have any input (from adults) except for a quick chat at 8am.

“All we did was stay in the room and chase little things,” she said.

Wellington Shire Council Mayor Carolyn Crossley said it was good to see so many young people from local secondary schools attending.

“Wellington Shire Council was impressed with the outcome of the summit, and we hope it will become an annual event,” she added.

The event was funded by the council.