Small grant means big steps into the future

Small grant means big steps into the future

With the CCI Small Grants Program open for applications once again, one organisation described how their grant is being used to help asylum seeker students get through university.

Youth+ is an organisation supporting students having a difficult time staying at school and young people who need to get back into their education in order to enable a positive future. For some, mainstream schooling has not worked well and Flexible Learning Options (FLOs) are a way to help them complete secondary school. For others, financial hardship threatens to derail the path to finishing tertiary education.

“This organisation helps youth to get on track, or to stay on track with their education. Flexible learning centres are part of Edmund Rice Education Australia’s national initiative to provide educational support, and Youth+ plays a key role in doing this. They also support students who are well into their studies but who need extra help getting through to the finish line,” explains CCI Giving Director Marita Wright.

“It’s especially tough for asylum seekers studying at tertiary level, so it’s really encouraging news to hear that our Small Grants Program has helped some of these students,” she says.

Megan Hall is Executive Officer for Youth+ and says there are now twenty flexible learning centres across the country.

“The way that our flexible learning program works is that we have to be invited into a community, our schools don’t work unless we have buy in from local community. Sometimes we’re gifted the premises to use for teaching, other times we need to seek these options out. The learning options of our schools extend to programs such as bridge program with the aim of supporting more disenfranchised youth through a more flexible timetable etc. We also provide an outreach path where staff are on buses that go out to skate parks or other places to engage with young people. Education responses across the country are very different so we need to consider localised responses and the individual needs of the community. Part of Youth+ is the Youth+ Institute and part of its mandate is providing training for places like in the Dondale Detention Centre (NT), where we work in the school and provide training for school staff and detention guards to build their capacity to respond using a trauma informed practice lens. All of our schools utilise trauma informed practice as many of our young people are victims of trauma stemming from a range of reasons to do with neglect and abuse, financial hardship, disadvantage, drug and alcohol addiction, and domestic violence.”

For this particular grant, Youth+ were also looking for ways to assist a group of Melbourne-based asylum seekers who had transitioned to university study but face a daily financial challenge to meet their living expenses.

“This grant has helped five young people in Victoria from St. Joseph’s Flexible Learning Centre. It’s an acknowledgement of our Asylum Seeker Pathway Project and its effort to support young Kurdish, Iranian, Iraqi, Hazara, Afghani and Sri Lankan students. These young people are studying a range of course from a range of universities across Victoria”.

Hall says when they graduate they want to be able to work and apply for resident status, but getting through their study is weighed down by financial struggle.

“With the support of the Small Grants Program, a living support fund was conceptualised. Now we can assist with transport cards, food vouchers and rent assistance because some students are living on a shoe string. It’s important to acknowledge that these young people are on restricted visas so they aren’t eligible for government assistance for university study, so how do they live and survive if they can’t support themselves?”

Since 2010, the number of flexible learning centres has grown steadily, with schools now in every state and territory except the ACT.

Empowering young people to re-connect with learning, or supporting those engaged in the transition to further education means the opportunity to negotiate positive steps to adulthood.

“CCI Giving’s Small Grant has made a difference because those daily costs add up. It’s one thing for young people to aim for a scholarship, but asylum seeker students need help to support themselves and we know this type of support is very helpful.”