In early September staff from HYPA and the University of South Australia attended the National Doing Schools Differently Conference in Melbourne to talk about our collaborative BOLT East program. Joining them were two very special guests, Maddie and Dan, who are part of the BOLT East program and were invited to attend the conference as part of the Youth Delegate Team.

BOLT is an alternative learning program run by HYPA in collaboration with the University of South Australia and Eastern Adelaide high Schools at the Magill Campus of Uni SA. The program has been designed for young people who struggle to participate in mainstream schooling and provides learning that is linked to SACE as well as creative non-accredited learning designed to develop skills to increase students’ employability. This includes opportunities to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh International Award, an opportunity which saw the BOLT participants design and screenprint the t-shirts for our City-Bay team this year.

As part of their involvement in the conference Maddie and Dan presented a 10 minute video they had created, “A day in the life of BOLT”, which focused on their own firsthand experience of the BOLT program. In addition to this Maddie was 1 of 4 young people who took part in the Youth Delegate’s panel, where she answered questions from members of the audience at the conference.

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Dan and Maddie preparing to share their video

HYPA Manager Sonia Martino, who attended the conference with the young people, was full of praise for everyone involved.

“I just wanted to express my gratitude to the staff of BOLT East, Dani O’Connell – Learning Facilitator and Alison Ford, Case Manager, for working closely with both Maddie and Dan and for guiding them through the process of making the video and ensuring that they were prepared to firstly, make the trip to Melbourne (they were accompanied by Dani), secondly, to have the courage to present the video and thirdly, be part of a panel.  Thanks again for all your hard work.”

Dan, one of the young people, has also provided his own reflections on the experience of the conference which we’re happy to share with you below.

In term 2, Maddie and I were given a special opportunity to travel to Melbourne and present at the conference all about doing schools differently. Both of us immediately jumped at this opportunity as we both knew that this was going to be an incredible experience that we would always remember. We were thinking about what to present and how to present it, we came to the conclusion that the best way was to show the people attending the conference is to show them exactly what it is like to be in a program like this, so we settled on making a video with multiple interviews of the students involved answering questions that we would write out. Throughout term 3 we worked with the class to make a movie depicting a day in the life of a BOLT student. We also interviewed the young people in BOLT as well as Dani, Ally and a placement student to get their perspectives on the program and share some insight.

On September 16th, we travelled to Melbourne to present our video and take part in the ‘Doing schools Differently Conference’. We had to wake up monstrously early to catch the plane which came at 6:05 am, so with much annoyance we managed to get out of bed and into the car to head to the airport. After an uneventful flight and long taxi ride we reached the conference destination.

It was at the conference that Maddie and I were invited to be a part of a youth delegates group, with the primary focus being to share our experiences in FLO programs and provide some insight and reflection on what works well.

The day went by incredibly fast and no sooner after we had arrived we found ourselves standing on the stage presenting to a hall of about 500 people. We were both extremely nervous to be speaking and presenting our video in front of such a large crowd. We approached the microphone, excitedly introduced our video and sat back proudly as it played on two large screens to a crowd of many.  After the video the youth delegate co-organizer invited our panel of young people from the youth delegates one of which was Maddie, to take the floor and share their experiences in FLO. Panel members were asked a series of questions that would enable them to share their experiences, opinions and ideas around FLO programs, the difficulties young people face in mainstream schools and improvements that could be made to better support vast needs of young people in an educational environment.

At the conclusion of the youth delegates section, we were all given a standing ovation. Maddie and I received some very positive feedback and many congratulations from people attending the conference. This opportunity is one we will never forget. It was such an invaluable experience.

Maddie on the panel answering questions from the audience.

Maddie on the panel answering questions from the audience.

Maddie and Dan presented brilliantly and we’re very proud of the way they conducted themselves throughout the conference. We couldn’t have asked for two better ambassadors for BOLT and the work we’re doing to help young people through our alternative learning programs.