Home' Teacher : June-July 2011 Contents professional development 7
sentatives visit the school and interact with
students, assisting them i n a variety of pro -
jects, from gardening to cooking to trade
work. This interaction fosters a mentoring
relationship, forging strong intergenera-
tional links and providing what is in some
cases a veritable lifeline to both the student
and the senior.
The partnership provides much-ne eded
funding and supplies such as food donations
through TOMNET contributions and joint
fund raising initiatives.
To appreciate just how valuable a part-
nership is, you first have to understand the
place and culture to which the Centena ry
Heights State High School – Toowoomba
Flexi School students belong.
The school has a burgeoning school
population that has increased to 1,193.
Toowoomba Flexi School is an anne xed
campus developed for some 70 students who
simply cannot perform in the more conven-
tional education strea m.
These students come from exception-
ally challenging backgrounds and deal on a
daily basis with a range of pressu res , includ-
ing domestic and d rug abuse, homelessness,
mental health issues, family fina ncial strains
A quick snapshot of life in 2010 for these
students shows just how challenging their
circu mstances a re:
❙ 96 per cent were living without an appro-
priate adult role model
❙ 86 per cent were impacted by mental
❙ 80 per cent were living in poverty
❙ 65 per cent were disengaged and show-
ing no sign of transition to a desirable
❙ 53 per cent were significantly impacted
❙ 24 per cent homeless at one stage or
throughout the year
❙ 10 per cent had a criminal record, and
❙ 10 per cent were mothers and 2 per cent
There was without question an urgent
and crucial need to support these students
and make them feel valued.
Concur rently, senior members within
the community were also dealing with their
own struggles. A lack of purpose and loneli-
ness was affecting a significant number of
Toowoomba’s senior population, leading to
depression and , in some cases , a n increased
reliance on medication.
It became apparent that through linking
the two generations, a mutually-rewarding
and valued part nership could be formed.
how the partnership looks
The part nership continues to evolve and
now includes five clear strea ms.
Mentoring a Mate
TOMNET members provide students with
literacy and nu meracy support. As students
undertake their daily curriculum, members
are with them to help guide them and offer
assistance where required. This initiative
shows students that people care about them
and have a vested interest in seeing them
succeed. It also empowers the elder mentors
to feel that they once again have purpose
and can in fact continue to positively con-
tribute to their com mu nity.
Vegetable Plot to Plate
Seniors and students work together to
maintain a vegetable garden on the school
grounds. TOMNET members share knowl-
edge and advice on gardening as well as using
the produce to create nutritious, tasty meals.
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