Pathways at school of hope

May 12, 2018

Making a difference: McAuley Champagnet Program director Peter Chalkley works with disengaged youth across the region to help them achieve their goals.

About 13 years ago, the need to provide a valid pathway for disengaged and at-risk youth in Shepparton was identified.

From this vision, the McAuley Champagnat Program was born.

‘‘We’re a school of hope,’’ program director Peter Chalkley says.

‘‘It’s a valid alternate education pathway making a real difference to the lives of a cohort of young people in this region.’’

There are currently 32 students enrolled in the program but what the program isn’t, is a ‘‘drop-in centre’’, Mr Chalkley says.

‘‘We are serious about providing this program for a group of students who deserve an opportunity,’’ he said.

‘‘Saying to a family your child deserves a second or third chance, while we won’t accept inappropriate rubbish behaviour, we won’t give up.’’

Founders Monsignor Peter Jeffrey, former Notre Dame College principal Peter White, Mark Rumble, Jennifer Hippesley and Brian Turner wanted to make a difference.

And what a difference they have made.

In 2015, the program celebrated its 10-year anniversary, having had more than 200 students come through its doors since its inception.

Nine staff work with about 30 students in purpose-built facilities behind Notre Dame College’s Emmaus campus.

‘‘For young people who have become disengaged or are at risk, whatever the reason, this place becomes really important,’’ Mr Chalkley said.

‘‘In providing a wrap-around support of scaffolding in order to help these young people experience success.’’

Breakfast, morning tea and lunch is provided at the school and social workers and welfare co-ordinators support teaching staff in tailoring individual programs for students.

‘‘Research says that we’re crucial and in my time, over the last eight years, the need has only increased,’’ Mr Chalkley said.

‘‘I’d like to think this place is making a genuine difference.’’

Mr Chalkley said the ‘‘highs are higher and the lows are lower’’ at MCP but it was incredibly rewarding working at the school.

‘‘It is incredibly rewarding seeing a person re-engage in education, get back on track and achieve their goals,’’ he said.

‘‘Whether it is mainstream education, a TAFE pathway or an apprenticeship — the staff here are skilled at opening up all those possibilities.’’

This ‘‘school of hope’’ is continuing to make a huge difference in the lives of young people in Shepparton, the Goulburn Valley and the wider north-east region.

‘‘I welcome people making an inquiry, come and see and look at what we have on offer,’’ Mr Chalkley said.

What makes MCP different?

●A strong welfare focus for students and families coupled with a structured hands-on and vocational training curriculum in a safe environment creates a balanced foundation for learning, personal development and recovery from trauma.

●Strong boundaries and consistent pastoral care provides a platform for students to learn how to manage their own behaviour and become respectful and happy young people.

●State-of-the-art facilities and highly qualified staff provide students with a sense of worth, giving them every opportunity to turn over a new leaf and reach their potential.

●It is a program of second, third, fourth ... chances. We never give up on a child. We always provide hope.

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