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29 March 2016

Teach For Australia Alumni connect regional students with professional work experience

Boundless is helping students from low socioeconomic backgrounds gain meaningful experience in their fields of interest

Boundless, a non-profit organisation led by Teach For Australia Alumni, is connecting students from low socioeconomic communities with professional work experience in Melbourne.

Boundless was co-founded in 2014 by Teach For Australia alumna Sonia Loudon (Cohort 2013) and Melbourne lawyer Cameron Winnett. They realised students from disadvantaged backgrounds often can’t access work experience, especially in professional workplaces.

Finding work experience depends heavily on parental connections. While teaching at Mill Park Secondary College in outer metropolitan Melbourne, Sonia grew increasingly frustrated that many of her students were missing out.

Boundless has now coordinated week-long work experience placements for 70 students. Students are matched, based on their aspirations, with professional workplaces that are committed to being inclusive and to helping young people reach their potential.

This month Boundless embarked on its biggest project to date. A group of 33 students from Shepparton in regional Victoria travelled to Melbourne for work experience with Boundless’ partner workplaces. Boundless partners with a number of organisations across hard-to-reach industries such as law, medicine and the sciences.

The project brought together Year 10 and 11 students from all four of Shepparton’s public high schools (Wanganui Park Secondary College, Mooroopna Secondary College, Shepparton High School and McGuire College).

Boundless-2

The Shepparton project developed in collaboration with another Teach For Australia Alumnus, Tim Warwick. Tim teaches at Wanganui Park Secondary College and joined Boundless as a director and Shepparton Coordinator.

Shepparton’s high rate of youth unemployment is well known. Earlier this month, a report by the Brotherhood of St Laurence identified the Hume region, which includes Greater Shepparton, as a hot-spot for youth unemployment in Australia.

Despite this, Tim knows that his students have high aspirations for the future. “They aspire to be architects, actuaries, medical researchers and digital marketers.”

Tim says that the biggest challenge he has found is in keeping these high aspirations on track. This is where work experience programs, like that which Boundless offers, come in.

“Our students often don’t have any exposure to the people in these jobs or the places where people in such roles work”, he says.

“To work hard through the final years of high school and make the leap to university, a student from Shepp needs to be able to imagine themselves having a professional career. Boundless helps them do that”.

Among the students participating last week was Xhoana, a Year 10 student at Shepparton High School. Xhoana spent the week with law firm Allens, an in-kind partner of Teach For Australia. Xhoana aspires to study Law at university and was identified by her school’s Legal Studies teachers for her potential. She would be the first in her family to attend university.

“I’ve had such an amazing week,” she says. “I’ve learnt so much and met the nicest people”.

Boundless’ next work experience rounds are in June for selected schools in Melbourne’s outer-northern and outer-eastern suburbs. In September the program will expand to the Wimmera region.

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Photos of student Xhoana with thanks Michaela Barca and Boundless.