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“Without BBQ With The Boys, I would not be as open as I am today. I was a bit of a loner and since then, things have changed, I am making a lot of friends and learning how to talk to people.”
Christopher Stouhan Jovicic, 16, selects his words carefully when talking about the impact Beacon’s young men’s mentoring program BBQ With The Boys has had on him.
“I always felt that as a person I was less social, a little bit shy, but this has helped me feel confident and helped me with socialising. I have been trying to work with a lot more people and using the skills I learnt from that in everyday living.”
Christopher was one of 20 year 10 students from South Sydney High School who undertook the one day high impact program as part of the Beacon Program, and funded at his school through United Way.
He is careful and considered in his comments, but is eager to talk about his favourite part of the program – making a list of what he wants to achieve in life.
“I put about seven or eight things on the list of what I want to achieve in a certain amount of time and I have already done four of them so far, and it has pushed up my level of motivation and wanting to do something and not being so laid back.”
An integral part of the BBQ With The Boys program is the involvement of mentors from supporting businesses within the school’s community.
Christopher was linked with Nathan from BT Financial and his enthusiasm for this new friendship in his life is obvious, both by the glowing endorsement Christopher gives, but also by the lift in his tone when discussing the mentors.
“They’re very open and positive towards us and very supportive. They really try to help in any way possible and teach us leadership and other ideas and concepts, and teamwork in general.
“I recently had a mock interview and my mentor was there, so I had a conversation with him to see what’s new in his life and what’s new in my life, it was very interesting and I really enjoyed it.”
It’s not just BBQ With The Boys that has had an impact on Christopher, or his 141 fellow year 10 students since the Beacon program started at South Sydney High School in term four last year.
Beacon school coordinator Lesley Borenstein says that when talking with individual students, it is very clear that they have embraced the entire Beacon program.
“At the beginning of the year I had to drag them along to the program kicking and screaming, but now I have to say only the first 20 students who submit their permission notes can be accepted for the particular high impact program being offered at this time. The word has spread, that these Beacon programs like BBQ with the boys are really worthwhile and are a lot of fun. The students see the benefits for themselves.”
Lesley has been teaching a long time and says she has never seen a program quite like Beacon. “I always felt life was about the journey, the journey we take and the people we meet along the way. I am really happy to be involved in the program and to give our students the opportunity to be mentored by the most interesting people from a wide range of businesses and the government sector.
“It’s a win win for all and I believe those who have been involved have really loved the experience with our students and the kids have had an amazing journey.”
For students like Christopher the journey has only just begun. “I’ve had a lot of interaction with business people and learnt a lot about ethics and understanding what an employer wants. All of the programs run by Beacon and United Way have made me a better person, increased my confidence and outlook on life, what I want and what I need to do in the future.
“It’s just made me a better person and helped me focus on my studies and school in general because it is a program that involves all my friends as well.”
Lesley believes South Sydney High School hopefully will see an increased attendance at school, with better school work completion rates and importantly students will see the benefits of working with the staff for better individual student outcomes … all this as a result of having Beacon programs at the school.
“The overall engagement has been a huge success, it is a very positive program. The success of the partnership of our school with the businesses’ social entrepreneurship commitment has boosted the self esteem and expectation for success for our students. I believe our students were always capable to reach for their dreams, but it took the Beacon programs to give them the confidence and new found skills to really see what they could achieve.”
Without the funding support from United Way, Lesley says there is no way she could’ve run as many of the program components as she has, especially given it is the school’s first year with Beacon.
“We are also fortunate to have had other business supporters as well, helping out with supplying venues, catering and their time to allow the events to go ahead. The business community really got behind us as a school in conjunction with Beacon,” she said.
South Sydney High School Beacon coordinator, Lesley Borenstein with student Christopher Stouhan Jovicic who credits Beacon and the BBQ With the Boys program with helping his personal growth.