For many decades, private schools in Australia have been very good at mentoring past students, through their ‘old boy’ and ‘old girl’ networks, maintaining a relationship between alumni and school.
And it makes sense—if people have been happy at that school, they were there during those impressionable teenage years, and will retain fond memories and be prepared to help those who are following in their footsteps.
Yet this is one of those unwritten benefits that you won’t find in the school prospectus.
And it’s something that the public education system hasn’t really been involved in.
The Victorian Education Department has introduced a program called Ourschool, which will involve sending alumni experts spending one day a week in eight Victorian government schools which have been chosen for the project.
While you might reasonably expect that the comfortable middle class suburbs are represented, the interesting aspect of this program is that it also includes less well-off schools and country schools.
Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Judy Crowe seems delighted with the idea, saying that the service would build the public’s confidence in state schools.
“This will happen by building relationships with former students,” she told The Age in Melbourne.
Sunshine College in Melbourne’s west is part of the pilot project, and already has an enthusiastic success story wanting to encourage others.
Former refugee Vu Le wants to help current students at Sunshine College to achieve the way he has.
He arrived in Australia at 10 years of age, learned English, and graduated from Sunshine College with such high results that he went on to study medicine. Today he is the local General Practitioner, and gives credit to how his old school made this happen for him.
“With the support of the teachers I got the marks I needed to get into medicine. Without them I wouldn’t be here,” he told The Age.
“The teachers are there, the ingredients are there, you just need students to take advantage of those opportunities and they will do well.”
Taking this idea further, Dr Le already speaks to Sunshine College students about how to be successful, and has plans to mentor them and establish a scholarship.
He is putting into practice some very good advice from the Bible.
“I remembered the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts chapter 20, verse 35
Dr Vu Le may have received much help from his old school, but he is thriving on the joy of giving back so others can be like him.