Shepparton education program creating pathways

A Shepparton-based higher education program which helps students attend university has seen 60 per cent of its participants enrolled in a tertiary institution.

La Trobe University's Bradford Shepparton Pathway program was launched in 2019 to encourage local students to enter higher education through staff and student-led mentorships.

Shepparton campus head Elizabeth Capp said last year's 60 per cent figure was an incredible achievement when compared to the 13 per cent of 19- to 21-year-olds in Shepparton who move into higher education.

“The program is opening these young people up to ideas that may not have occurred to them previously. It's all about building aspiration - the schools do fabulous work in this space, but sometimes students just need that extra bit of encouragement,” Ms Capp said.

She said the figure was also particularly encouraging when the effects of pandemic restrictions were taken into account.

She said La Trobe started the program with a view to making it part of its normal operations.

“We piloted this to see what results we could get and how we could work with schools, particularly Greater Shepparton Secondary College. So far the results are looking very good,” Ms Capp said.

Former Wanganui campus Year 12 student Inderpreet Kaur Singh joined the Bradford program in 2019. She is now in the second year of a Bachelor of Bio Medicine at La Trobe in Bendigo.

“In Year 12, my mentor Rikke Mazzella helped me with my oral presentation, and I could ask for help after hours and she would reply. For uni, they really helped me with what to expect when I started. Rikke also helped me out with enrolment issues - it's been really good,” Ms Singh said.

She now hopes to join a Melbourne University entry pathway to become a doctor.

Greater Shepparton Education College's Maguire campus college captain and Year 12 student Ben Okely, 18, plans to study for a Bachelor in Sports Science either at La Trobe or elsewhere.

He said the Bradford program had helped him with time management, and different study methods. The program has also connected him with an English tutor.

“English is not my strongest subject, so I've found access to a tutor is probably the most benefit, then there other benefits like looking at different pathways and providing more options for courses,” Mr Okely said.

The Bradford program was made possible by a $250,000 donation from the Gillespie Family Foundation, founders of the Baker's Delight chain.

It was named after the late Audrey Gillespie (nee Bradford) who was born in Shepparton in 1923.

Her son Roger Gillespie said the family was pleased with the results of the Bradford program so far.

“This program with other work being done by La Trobe University has the chance of improving long-term educational outcomes never achieved in the Goulburn Valley,” Mr Gillespie said.