To get some more views about the project from young people, I visited Hume Central Secondary College in Broadmeadows on 24 May. My first meeting was with the Junior SRC (Student Representative Council) – a group of students from years 7, 8 and 9 who aim to represent the interests of students on their campus.
I had been asked to help the group think about some goals for their SRC. To do this, we began by discussing the word ‘participation’. To the students, this meant:
- “joining in”,
- “getting involved”,
- “putting a hand up”,
- “trying hard”, and
- “helping other people”.
The group saw their SRC as a voice for students in the school community – it was their job to come up with suggestions that could improve the students’ experience of school. To find out what some of these suggestions could be, I asked the young people to imagine their ‘perfect’ school community, and to draw some pictures, or maps, of what this looked like. By drawing these maps, the students not only highlighted new things they hoped could be created at the school, but also identified some of the current issues that were causing them concern (for example, litter in the school grounds).
As there were a number of different suggestions for school improvements, I asked the group to vote on their top three realistic proposals. They selected:
- An ‘activity centre’, where students could play games, sports and relax.
- A cheap canteen.
- No rubbish in the school grounds.
The group decided that these were possible future campaign areas, and they could research them further for their SRC. I look forward to hearing what happens!
We moved onto a conversation about the new youth engagement resources YACVic are creating, and the students had plenty of good ideas:
What are your suggestions for improving the current handbooks?
“I’d make it more colourful so that people pay more attention to it, and a lot more funky writing so people can actually get into it”
“Have it as an app, so that it’s easier to access. And, for a book, make it bright colours”
“Have more versions, or smaller versions, so you can just find the certain version you want, and take it with you”
“Make it brochures or a website… you could make little hand-outs for people – put the most important points into a booklet thing, so it would be easier for people to take around, so it’s not as big as it is now”
“I’d like it to be in a website or an app, because the world’s becoming more online”
What are your tips for young people who want to make change in their community?
“They need to speak up and actually tell someone”
What does having a voice, or making change, in a community mean to you?
“Being able to lead others and show them your visions for the future”
“Helping others, giving out ideas for people to help with changing”
“Helping the people out around you”
“To me it means everybody to have their say, and everybody having a right to actually get to know a lot of people, to get to know what they’re like, and what they want around the community”
The students wrapped things up by interviewing their teacher, Mr. Hurle, about his views on the project:
Students: What technology would you use to help you improve your community?
Mr. Hurle: “I think smartphone apps are fantastic… using a range of websites… Also, using technology in the classroom, just a range of different technology: it might be whiteboards, it might be even mobile phones, at times, when the time’s right”
Students: What do adults need to help them to work together with young people?
Mr. Hurle: “I think we need to focus on the positive things in our community. Try and get in touch with what teenagers like… it might things like social media, it might be what sort of music kids are into. It might be the way they interact with teachers, or the way they interact their parents. Try to talk and communicate to find out ehat teenagers care about and work out ways to make change”
Students: What tips would you give someone who is trying to involve young people in an activity or a project?
Mr. Hurle: “I think it’s good to have clear goals, so have some sort of action plan. And also, I think, to be resilient – know what you’re aiming for and not let things get in the way. Resilience is very important and also having the ‘smart’ goals – knowing what steps you’re going to take and knowing what you’re going to achieve”.
Thanks to all of the Junior SRC members – Archana, Cameron, Jaden, Jennifer, Marvic, Selina, Stephanie and Te Uira – for their fine work in the session, thanks to Tom Hurle for agreeing to be interviewed, and thanks to Lisa Breen and Alex Robinson for arranging and supporting my visit with the group.