Pathways Program Breaks New Ground In Bendigo

La Trobe University's successful Regional Pathways Program is breaking new ground in Central Victoria, in a bold move to reshape regional education.

The Pathways Program will commence from Term 3 in rural schools on the outskirts of Bendigo before working its way inwards to provide vital educational support and mentorship to the schools and students who need it most.

Latest data from the 2021 Census has revealed only 23 per cent of 19 to 21-year-olds in Bendigo are enrolled at a university or other higher education institution, a stark contrast to Greater Melbourne's participation rate of almost 50 per cent.

La Trobe Pro Vice-Chancellor (Regional), Associate Professor Melanie Bish, said the Pathways Program recognises the challenges that regional students face when considering higher education.

"Our Pathways Program aims to provide a supportive environment where students can explore their aspirations for University without the hurdles of distance, financial concerns, or academic readiness," Associate Professor Bish said.

"Through evidence-based strategies and local partnerships with schools, we are re-enriching the regional workforce by empowering young people from diverse backgrounds with the skills and confidence to pursue higher education in their own community."

The Pathways program first launched at La Trobe's Albury-Wodonga campus in 2017, before its establishment as the Bradford Shepparton Pathways Program in 2019. The program targets high and moderate priority schools as detailed in My School data.

Lidia Amadei participated in the Bradford Shepparton Pathways Program during her senior years at Greater Shepparton Secondary College.

"The Bradford Program strengthened my confidence in applying for courses that I was both interested in and felt were career-oriented, especially within La Trobe," Lidia said.

Students receive tutoring support around good study habits for year 12 and preparation for the realities of university, including financial needs and living costs.

Lidia is now studying a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours) at La Trobe's Bendigo campus and is part of the student facilitators group who mentor and share their experiences of university with students involved in the Pathways program.

"It also increased my willingness to look at courses outside of my hometown because I was supported by others in the program, who had more recent university experience than that of my parents'," Lidia said.

"Despite graduating from the program, the skills I learned still influence how I study and complete my assignments."

The Bendigo initiative will aim to support 225 students over the next two years and has been made possible through generous philanthropic donations. However, further investment is needed to continue supporting additional schools.

"La Trobe's commitment to regional communities extends beyond educational outcomes in fostering long-term economic and social benefits by supporting the journeys of students who are often underrepresented in higher education," Associate Professor Bish said.

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