Helping Cummins youth be their best

Helping the youth at Cummins Area School be their best had knock on effects, positively influencing the overall school culture and direction, as well as the families of those who participated in the Youth Opportunities Personal Leadership Program.

The Youth Opportunities Association received $4,588 through FRRR’s Small Grants for Rural Communities program, thanks to donor partner Thyne Reid Foundation. The money was used to conduct The Youth Opportunities Personal Leadership Program for 21 Year 10 students from Cummins Area School.

The Cummins Area School, is situated in a small regional farming community 350kms west of Adelaide. It has approximately 140 secondary students with over 14% of the school population on School Card (a low income, education support card). Many students who participated in the program were experiencing issues such as lack of direction and motivation, family breakdown and a decline in self-esteem and confidence.

The Youth Opportunities Personal Leadership Program is an early intervention / prevention model, which seeks to positively influence the lives of young people - reducing disappointing social outcomes like unemployment and its flow-on effects in disadvantaged communities.

The program offers 60 hours of training over a 10 week period where students learn motivational skills, goal setting and how to communicate more effectively. It is designed to provide students with techniques that challenge their usual set of behaviours, which are then tested in a real life situation.

The Impact

Graduates from the Cummins Area School who successful completed the Leadership Program.

Participants self-evaluate their progress against measures including self-confidence, motivation and communication both at the start and at the end of the program. Parents, teachers and participant supporters are also asked to comment. These combined with overall school measures such as retention figures are collected to analyse the impact of the program.

The results are in and they are strong. They show marked increases across all measurement areas with the greatest improvement in self-esteem and confidence (a 28% increase since the start of the program). Just over 85% of participants now feel they have a clear future direction and motivation and nearly 94% indicated that they have strong relationships with family and friends.

This is supported by comments from the participants themselves.

“Before Youth Opps, I wasn’t confident to speak my opinion. I didn’t know how to communicate with others and I wasn’t sure on my future direction. Now my future looks organized, motivated, confident and clear.”

“Before Youth Opps I struggled through homework and my confidence was at an all-time low. I felt a great need to change this and create a better version of myself. I feel now that I am more motivated and confident.”

Tom Cleland, Youth Opportunities Senior Trainer of the Personal Leadership Program at Cummins Area School, explained that confidence and motivation were the biggest areas students wanted to improve and this was evident in their graduation ceremony speeches.

“One student spoke about her battle with a low self-image and a lot of negative self-talk. She was able to change this habit by replacing her negative self-talk with positive affirmation and this made a huge difference to her self-esteem and the way she communicated with others.”

The graduation was attended by over 100 people and the feedback from both the school and parents was extremely encouraging and supportive.

“Overall it was a very successful program and the trainers should be extremely proud of its outcomes,” reported Mr Cleland.

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