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Connecting People To Natural Spaces: The Story of Skids

Shrouded in the mists of a Peruvian jungle, our very own Kylie “Skids” Skidmore took time from her travels to share her journey with Cire Community School. With her strong passion for connecting people to natural spaces, Skids believes that our kinship with the environment is an integral part of being a whole, balanced human being. Seeing the bush as a place of healing, restoration and reflection, she aims to create spaces where people who’ve felt like failures can excel and experience a sense of accomplishment, building communities based on trust and a lack of mainstream cultural or societal norms.

Skids became the first Australian to graduate from the University of New Hampshire‘s dual Master of Science/Master of Social Work in Adventure Therapy, a unique course only they offer. With three to six people selected to complete the qualification each year, it is a casual environment but also one of deeply significant and special connection. Their graduation ceremony looks nothing like the American stereotype of gowns and formality, with graduates dressed in jeans and awarded t-shirts before sharing a potluck dinner with their professors, families and friends.

 

 

The Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy Inc describes Adventure Therapy as “a diverse field of practice combining adventure and outdoor environments with the intention to achieve therapeutic outcomes for those involved”. Skids describes it as “getting alongside people, and spending time living life together; cooking around a fire, paddling down a river or watching a sunset together. It’s beautiful, it’s fun, and there aren’t the same rules or expectations that exist elsewhere”. She also sees it as an important tool for teaching immediate, natural consequences. “If you don’t set your tent up correctly, you get wet. If you eat all your snacks day one, they’re gone. It’s much easier to see that our choices have power and determine outcomes, which can be incredibly empowering”.

Skids has a background in P.E/Outdoor Ed teaching and student wellbeing. Before departing for America, she was working with pre-dominantly indigenous youth in NSW. “The schools I worked in were really trying to catering for these young people, but the end result was still often a hostile environment, which didn’t truly acknowledge the layers of trauma these adolescents, their families and communities had and were continuing to endure at the most profound level”, Skid writes. “I also felt like the school system, as it was, was not a healing or ‘rebuilding’ place. At the time I wanted to create an alternative outdoor space, connecting people to natural spaces, where these students might flourish and reconnect to culture and country”.

Returning home to undertake her internship, while completing the associated classes online, Skids successfully applied to work with Cire. She saw it as an opportunity to research and reflect upon work she truly cared about: work that is real, immediate and important. Skids describes Cire as a place that will “take risks and follow research which invites an ongoing commitment to examining evidence, reflection, and innovation for the sake of helping our young people access tools and resources to live freer, fuller lives”.

This year, Skids will be working with Cire Community School across Outdoor Education and Student Wellbeing.

But first, she has Patagonia to explore…

For more information on Cire Community School, or to book a campus tour, please visit our website at www.cire.org.au or contact our team on 1300 835 235.

Announcing the 2020 SwinLocal Scholarship Recipients!

The SwinLocal program is a community outreach initiative by Swinburne University of Technology, offered to students studying at Learn Local or community schools, such as the Cire Community School. Learn Local providers offer education and training in community settings and Cire Training was awarded the Community Training Provider of the Year for 2019.

The SwinLocal partnership currently covers the outer-east, including Yarra Ranges. Established in 2016, SwinLocal has awarded 23 scholarships, enabling students to undertake VET courses at Swinburne University. Scholarship recipients receive quality vocational training and a safe, supported introduction to a larger educational institution.

Our Community School team are pleased to announce that the following Cire students have received SwinLocal scholarships for 2020:

Rhonan Wouters
Certificate III in Information, Digital Media and Technology – Game Art and Animation

Kyha Edwards
Certificate II in Building and Construction Pre-Apprenticeship – Carpentry

Sienna Withers-Burke
Certificate III in Laboratory Skills

Each of these students submitted an application for the scholarship and participated in an interview process. They have already attended orientation and enrolment sessions in preparation for their studies, which will commence February 2020.

Janice Farrell, Student Wellbeing Coordinator, SwinLocal VETSS Program supported the students through the application, interview and enrolment process. She explains “The SwinLocal Scholarship program, now in its 3rd year,  aims to bridge the gaps that currently exist for students studying at Learn Local or community schools. Previous SwinLocal students have made successful transition pathways into employment or further vocational studies.”

New work boots by the truckload, almost

It was like Christmas at Cire’s Mount Evelyn campus on 3 August when a donation of a truckload, almost, of spanking new work boots arrived for horticulture students.

The Port Melbourne-based Workwear Group was behind the incredibly generous donation, with students eager to select their own from the 40 pair available. There were no second thoughts for one student who readily retired his dad’s boots.

Karen Swankie, Leading Teacher VCAL/VET and Student Pathways, and Workwear’s John Simon were delighted to see the expressions on the faces of students when they tried on their very own work boots. Some of the students readily went up to John to shake his hand in thanks.

‘It is an incredible donation because it is such a huge boost to the students and their futures,’ said Ms Swankie. ‘Having their own boots that comply with OHS requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE), helps open the doors for students to future employment and structured workplace opportunities, as well as work placements and experience, on-the-job training, and hands-on learning.’

Ms Swankie said the boots would give students greater confidence to enter the VET field and workforce and maximise the opportunities that are available.

The boots will benefit Cire students at all year levels and across varying programs including those in Vocational Education and Training (VET) Horticulture run in conjunction with Swinburne TAFE and the Hands-On Learning program at Yarra Valley ECOSS which focusses on sustainability.

Ms Swankie said the donation was particularly timely given that students will be involved in structured workplace learning later this term in areas such as building and construction, nurseries and mechanical roles.

If you would like to know more about community school click here or call 1300 835 235.

Crash Through to achieve your goals

In term 4 2017, Cire Training was given the opportunity to pilot a program with the Brotherhood of St Lawrence and Box Hill TAFE. Crash Through is a condensed program based on Advantage Thinking and the creation of a non-school environment to encourage engagement and learning.

Advantaged Thinking is a philosophy about using the advantages we possess as humans – our assets, talents, resources and abilities to create the conditions for a society in which everyone can thrive.

Advantaged Thinking believes that everyone has a talent, the ability to be someone positive in life. With the right set of opportunities and support, we can identify and harness everyone’s talent for personal and social good.

Our participants were all young people aged between 17 and 40 who had experienced disadvantage, trauma or negative experiences of school and had disengaged at some point in their lives.

Participants were invited to attend a five-week program ran on a Wednesday afternoon from 2.00 – 4.00 pm. Facilitated by an experienced facilitator from the Brotherhood of St Lawrence and mentors currently enrolled at Box Hill TAFE undertaking Diploma of Community Services or Diploma of Youth Work.

The 10 participants supported by 20 mentors looked at different areas of their life and identified things that they liked and one thing they disliked or would like to change in their world. Participants created presentations about the area that they wanted to change.

Over the five weeks, they researched and discussed the area they wanted to change and worked with their mentor to plan steps in order to achieve that goal. At the end of the program, we had people working to change awareness on sexual abuse, drug and alcohol awareness, creating more sources in the community for drinking water, a father’s support network, a children’s book and looking at opportunities for employment.

At the end of the program, participants left with a more positive attitude and changed view towards learning and opportunities. The participants were able to develop relationships and to support each other to identify strategies for positive change.

Participants presented their projects and their outcomes to the group. They even encouraged each other and shared ideas on how to move forward.

Participant 1 – Felt accepted for the first time in her life. She went on to complete her Diploma and was accepted into university to commence a degree in biomedicine.

Participant 2 – learnt about the processes required to approach the Yarra Ranges Council in order to get drinking fountains in local parks.

Participant 3 is developing a storybook for children and has enrolled in the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care.

For further information please call 1300 835 235.

Brotherhood of St Laurence

A leader in the making

What does it mean to have the skills to be a leader? Not everyone gets an opportunity to better themselves and prepare for what may lie ahead, but with the support and generosity of the Wandin Rotary, Hannah, a student from Cire Community School, was given this chance when she attended The Rotary Youth Seminar of 2017. This camp was designed to build leadership and communication skills in young people.

These are the words of Hannah.

I want to begin by mentioning that I consider my experience at RYLA leadership program to have been an invaluable catalyst and because of this, I feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude for my sponsorship from the Rotary Club of Wandin, and Cire Community School for giving me the opportunity.

The Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) is an experience, which feels almost impossible to describe because it is like no other. It is a residential seminar, expanding over the course of 6 days. Participants ranged from 18-30, and the program offered a diverse networking experience, which caters to the specific needs of young adults within this age group.

For me, RYLA felt like one of the most pivotal points in my life thus far. I believe that the program had a life-changing effect on every participant. It offered us access to powerful life skills delivered by an incredible leadership team who worked effectively, creating an intellectual and emotionally stimulating program.

Through this program, I took on a refreshed perspective, an improved outlook and approach toward multiple different aspects of my life and the way in which I navigate it. I consider the experience to have been a recalibration. Various other participants that I have spoken with share the same view.

With the perfect circumstances, environment, stimuli and duration for positive self-regulation, I feel that RYLA meets the true needs of young people, necessary in this day and age. RYLA enabled me to truly understand by example and experience what it is to be a leader and the absolute importance of leadership and teamwork. These two things are required and performed every day in all of our interactions and communications whether that be relationships, study, work, being a member of society, or just a good human being.

RYLA provided evidence of success and fulfilment through truly inspiring guest speakers, which opened an environment where I felt inspired by peers, idea sharing, activities, tests of the comfort zone, reflection and results.

All of these things coupled with an incredible leadership team encouraged every participant to be true to themselves. They allowed us to enjoy a truly authentic and rewarding experience. RYLA is host to an honest, motivating and passionate atmosphere that was contagious. It was an inexplicably inspiring experience to observe myself and those around me growing and learning in such a profound way.

RYLA gave me the chance to learn about myself, and to learn about others, to assess my strengths and weaknesses, and to assess the strengths and weaknesses of others. It also gave me an understanding of how we can use this knowledge and power in diversity for compatible success in all of our teams and communities.

I feel grounded in myself and in my community; I know this sense will continue to grow as I further engage. By searching deeper into my passions, strengths, weaknesses and my awareness, I feel more confident in where I am best able to contribute, engage and strive in the great wide world. I have an improved method for goal setting and more areas to set goals, which will lead to more and more goals.

Personally, one of the most valued effects that my experience instilled, was an improved sense of self-regulation; which serves as an umbrella term for the majority of all I learned at RYLA.

During our introduction to the seminar, Program Director, Alan, said that we may find an aspect of the seminar ‘indescribable’. I remember a few days before the seminar finished,  realising that I considered that ‘indescribable’ aspect to be the profound sense of connectedness, like-mindedness among diversity, lust for knowledge and growth. The power of collective passion, enthusiasm, motivation, optimism and deep community among strangers felt like an almost tangible force.

Since returning from RYLA, I feel that my quality of life has improved. The response to the program from my fellow 2017 Rylarians has been that of the same opinion. I believe that this is thanks to, what I consider, the psychological artillery that comes with the RYLA package.

Lastly, I consider RYLA to be a catalyst for every participant. Thank you, Rotary Club of Wandin. Words couldn’t really suffice for depicting my gratitude, so I will demonstrate my thanks in the way in which I conduct my life, living positively within my community, living out the lessons that I have learned as a Rylarian.

If you would like to find out more information about Cire Community School or would like a tour contact 1300 835 235

 

Seen and Heard – Boy to Man

A new photographic series of our young men

The transition from boyhood to manhood is a beautiful as well as challenging one for any young man. Our boys of today are the men of tomorrow and it is important they are supported in managing this transition with respect, dignity and grace.

With the generous support of an RACV Foundation Grant, Cire Community School is partnering with local and international photographer Kate Baker on a new project to make portraits of a number of our young men at both Mt Evelyn and Yarra Junction school campuses. Using an old fashioned large format film camera, Kate is making meaningful and authentic portraits of our young men aged 15-19 and talking with them through that process to seek insights into their views of society.

Why is this important? Our world has changed substantially over the past 10-20 years. The internet and mobile telephone alone have radically changed the way we connect with others, both within our own society and across the world. We are always available and always accessible. We are in some ways far more visible, yet at the same time we might find we are more anonymous than ever.

These are our young men within the communities of Yarra Junction and Mt Evelyn and this project seeks to make sure they are both seen and heard. Our young men have value to bring into the community, some have had challenges which has actually meant they seek meaning more deeply. Over the course of the next few months we plan to share with you portraits of some of these young men and a little glimpse into their views of the world we all inhabit

It is clear that boys who have experienced challenges early in life, some of whom may have already experienced issues such as depression, homelessness, family breakdown, mental health issues, or substance abuse, can suffer as a result of isolation from the community.  This project aims to give students a voice and empower them to feel they can be productive members of the society.  The project aims to change the boys’ view of themselves as well as changing community perceptions of them.  We want to introduce our community to these young men and to encourage them to feel both “seen” and “heard”.

Like us on Facebook to be a part of this special project. Each week will feature an image or quote from the young men who attend Cire Community School.

Seen and Heard – Boy to Man Facebook page 

Cire would like to thank the RACV for funding this project and Kate Baker for her contribution and dedication.

If you would like to know more about Cire youth educational programs that cater for year 7 – 12 click here

VCAL Students raise funds for the Starlight Foundation

On Thursday the 27th of October, Cire Community School Personal Development Skills (PDS) Art Group and Upcycling Group joined forces to raise money and awareness for the Starlight Foundation. To do this, the two classes held a market stall out the front of the Art Room at the Yarra Junction Campus.

In general, the VCAL Personal Development Skills classes are designed to help students develop as a person. They learn about team skills, leadership and develop self-confidence and personal responsibility. Planning and managing projects in the community are a big focus of this unit. The skills that are developed in these classes are transferable to work and or further study.

“I really enjoyed participating in the Cire Community School market stall because it gave me a sense of marketing skills.” Robert – student

The students and teachers came up with the idea for their semester project to showcase the products they had made throughout the semester. They raised money for the Starlight Foundation and for much needed art supplies for the PDS Art Group. The Starlight Foundation’s mission is ‘to brighten the lives of seriously ill children and their families’ making them the charity of choice for this project.

“I feel good that we raised money for the starlight foundation.” Zoe – student

For the market stall, students in the Art Group made things like candle holders, painted canvases and also ceramic mushrooms, whilst the Upcycling Group made wheat packs, cushions and soft toys. As is the ethos of their class, the Upcycling Group made their products using old, recycled materials such as clothing and other consumables.

“I was very pleased with the work I made and sold for the stall.” Jesse – student

The students worked extremely hard to make their art and craft products, working together as a productive team, with all students contributing ideas to help make the best of their market stall project. A money tin with promotional materials was displayed at Cire Services Head Office in Yarra Junction which staff and members of the public generously donated to.

There were staff members and parents from Cire Children’s Centre that dropped by and bought products and also other people from the Cire community who showed support and purchased items from the market stall.

The project raised a total of $454.75, which is a great effort so well done to all involved. The total amount of money being donated to the Starlight Foundation is $284.75. The remaining money will be invested into much needed art equipment for future art classes.

The students of the Art and Upcycling groups would like to thank everyone that took the time out of their busy day to drop in, support the students and purchase some of their products.

If you would like to learn more about Cire Community School programs and educational services click here or call 1300 835 235.

Ready, Steady, Participate!

On 25th of August, students from Cire Community School went to Duncan McKinnon Reserve in Murrumbeena to compete in an interschool athletics day. This was the first opportunity that our students have had to compete with other schools in an athletics carnival.

The day was organised by the Berry Street School, with four schools invited to participate. There were representatives from Caulfield Park, the Berry Street School and St. Joseph’s Flexible Learning Centre which all cater for students with similar backgrounds to our own students.

“It was nice to see all the schools getting together.”Tess

On the day, the township of Mt Evelyn experienced torrential rain and hail storms but luckily the sun was shining in Murrumbeena and all the events were able to run on time.

The day got off to a great start when senior students Matt Geale took gold and Jarryd Furneaux took bronze in the long jump. Matt won the event easily by jumping 35cm further than his nearest opponent.

Another outstanding moment for Matt Geale was when he volunteered at the last minute to run in the 100m sprint and finished third in the final to score bronze.

Foundation student Marie Hoffman won 6 ribbons over the course of the day, including 2nd in both the 200m and 400m girls running events. Another ribbon she won was gold in the 3-legged race along with team partner Jesse Wenzel. This event had been dominated by Cire students Jacinta Lammertse and Jess Brown in the heats; however Marie and Jesse took first place in the final.

Other highlights of the day included our girls relay team finishing second, the boys finishing third and the awesome performances by the girls in the jumping and throwing events.

“The students all had a great time competing.Mark Hunt

The biggest highlight of the day by far was that every student put their hand up to participate in multiple events and united to support each other. Not only that, but all of the students made a concerted effort to get along with and encourage the students from the other schools and ensured they shook hands after each event.

In what proved to be an extraordinary day filled with outstanding performances, it was our student’s determination, sportsmanship, respect and camaraderie that stood out most.” Mark Hunt

“It was nice to interact with students from other schools” Zoe M

Overall, Cire Community School finished a close third out of the schools on the day. Our students and teachers look forward to next year and thank all of the students that participated in this event and made it such a great day. Cire Community School would like to thank the Berry Street School for organising this event and the invitation to attend.

“It was an awesome day” Jarryd

For further information regarding regarding Cire youth educational services click here.

 

Students get creative with hair and beauty

As part of the curriculum at Cire Community School, students are required to choose and participate in a ‘project day’ also known as a Personal Development Skill (PDS) class. In these classes, the students are required to work toward goals that the class set together.

Hair & Beauty PDS at Mount Evelyn campus is taught by Megan Small, and her students think she is great. Megan ensures her students get the help they need to get the results they desire. The atmosphere in the class is always a positive one because Megan adds her touch of magic to the group with the least likely students being brought together and working as a unit. The students are encouraged to step outside their comfort zone and apply themselves at things they may usually shy away from. As her students say, if you know Megan, “shy” isn’t in her vocabulary.

The way Megan tailors her curriculum means the students focus is on positive experience, not on doing school work. Megan’s students enjoy the time they have together whilst putting their new-learnt skills into action to better their community and the lives of people within that.

“My class mates are a big part of my enjoyment with this class. We are an unlikely group but we work together well. We motivate one another to persevere, we help those that fall behind and we are just a group of young girls having a good time! I consider myself very fortunate for the amazing class mates I have and how compassionate and kind they all are. It’s been a pleasure to work alongside these girls and I hope in the future they pursue all their dreams and aspirations in life because they have worked unbelievably hard to get there and they deserve it!” VCAL Student 

The Hair and Beauty class’s project for first semester encouraged the participation in volunteer work with groups such as Alexandra Gardens, an aged care facility in Donvale. The students provided the residents with companionship whilst furthering their manicure skills, painting the resident’s fingernails, giving them hand massages and spending time together with the residents chatting.

The students agree the experience was vastly different from anything they had expected. Every time, without fail, the class left with grins from ear to ear buzzing from the fun they had at Alexandra Gardens. It was fascinating for the students to hear the stories and struggles of the aged care residents and to hear how similar their lives are to the students’ lives in some ways, yet so different in other ways. The students found themselves encouraged by the residents to keep going and to follow their dreams and aspirations. Bonds were formed and Megan found herself being asked to organise another date for the class to visit.

“It’s a great feeling to give back to our community for no profit other than the grins that we all leave with. We have learnt so much from our volunteer work, it’s very clear to all students that you only get as much as you put in and we plan to take advantage of that and gain as much as we can from this semester” VCAL Student

The class also visited Megan’s Hair salon Megga Hair where they invited support groups like mothers who suffer from Post Natal Depression along to enjoy free manicures and hair styles that Megan has previously taught the students to create, this is what our students had to say…

“It’s so beautiful to see the women transform into gorgeous confident women and the feeling it fills you with is beyond extraordinary.”

“Even if I am having a bad week, every Tuesday seems to make it that little bit brighter. I think a big part of that is to do with our teacher and the enthusiasm she brings in every morning and the belief she has in each student even if we don’t have it in ourselves.”

“I’m so grateful to not only my teacher, but my class mates for making every semester in Hair & Beauty an incredible journey full of laughter and fun. It wouldn’t be possible without the hard work all parties put in and I will carry the memories I make here well into my adult life and hopefully I will one day be in a retirement home having my hand massaged by an intelligent young woman like my fellow students telling her about my experiences and life journey too.”

Hair and Beauty class student, Molly Charles, feels that Cire Community School is a space of opportunity and support. Molly moved from a mainstream school to Cire and has noticed positive changes since making the change.

“The teachers here interact with the students and are happy to go through steps showing no frustration even if they’re sitting there for an hour saying the same thing over and over. They are willing to do whatever it takes to help the kids here and teach them, but they teach so much more than maths and English. They teach life skills not just banking and all of that but how to go about things in a way that no mainstream teacher would. I value the relationships I have with my teachers at Cire because not only are they teachers they’re my mentors.” Molly – VCAL Student

Cire Community School offers a full range of VCAL programs, for further information click here or call 1300 835 235.

A splash of colour for Cire Services

Cire Community School Personal Development Skills Art group (PDS) has worked diligently this semester to beautify the back of the Community House (now Cire Services). The project was based on the topic ‘Change’ and the students researched how they could depict (through art) the community changing over time. The PDS Art class worked in teams; problem solved and had lots of fun to achieve these excellent results!

The seats were painted to display the aboriginal heritage of the area. The designs near to and on the BBQ represent an ‘old world’ theme and the board on the wall depicted a present or modern theme. The floor was also painted to represent the mechanics of change – moving and pushing through time.

The art students decided to use spray paints on the back board to represent the modern idea of street art. There was debate around the social issue of graffiti in our class and a question about the community liking graffiti or street art and the difference between the two. Students wrote a survey and found that people in the community didn’t mind street art as long as it wasn’t vandalism or tagging such as graffiti. The students went further and even wrote a letter to the local council to get a graffiti wall for people to express their street art styles. The local council will be visiting us next semester to discuss this matter and the students would like to change their perceptions and promote street art as a new and modern art form.

Overall the courtyard of Cire Services looks amazing, bright and vibrant. Making a positive change to the once dull and boring walls, seats and BBQ area. A fantastic job done by the PDS Art group at Cire Community School!

“Our class worked really hard to reach our goals and I think we all did a great job.” Steffany  – VCAL Student

“The project went really well. We all pulled together and the finished outcome was great.” Zoe  – VCAL Student

“I enjoyed spraying the street art wall.” Robert – VCAL Student

“It was fun! I like letting my imagination run wild.” Crystal – VCAL Student

“Its Wicked” in regards to the students project. Robert (Student of Art group)

Cire Community School offers a full range of educational services for local young people that require an alternative to mainstream schooling. For further information click here or call 1300 835 235