La Trobe University has received $250,000 from the Gillespie Family Foundation to improve educational pathways and life opportunities for young people in the Shepparton region.
Census data shows higher education participation rates for people aged 19-21 are at 13 per cent in Shepparton, compared with 50 and 35 per cent in Melbourne and Australia respectively.
The generous funding has helped launch the Bradford Shepparton Pathway Program – named after the late Audrey May Gillespie (nee Bradford), mother of La Trobe alumnus and Bakers Delight co-founder Roger Gillespie.
Based on a similar, highly successful program run at La Trobe’s Albury-Wodonga campus – which has seen a 44 per cent increase in student enrolment from 2018 to 2019 from participating schools – staff and students from the University’s Shepparton campus will mentor Year 11 students to inspire, inform and encourage them to consider higher education.
La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar, thanked the Gillespie Family Foundation for their support and said enabling access to higher education for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and in regional and rural areas, is central to La Trobe’s mission and values.
“Regardless of your background, or the town in which you grew up, university should be attainable for everyone,” Professor Dewar said.
“By offering this pathway program into higher education, we are not only ensuring more students get a university education, but we’re also helping grow the skilled regional workforce.”
Students enrolled in the Bradford Shepparton Pathway Program will receive an early conditional place to La Trobe University and access to a pool of financial support where necessary.
Roger Gillespie said he had high aspirations for the future of the program.
“Our hope is that the Bradford Pathway program lifts the enrolment percentage at least to the national average of 35 per cent within a few years, and a few years later takes the percentage closer to the Melbourne average of 50 per cent,” Mr Gillespie said.
La Trobe University Head of Campus (Shepparton) Elizabeth Capp said the program will help close the education gap in Shepparton.
“We want young people in Shepparton to understand the life-changing value higher education can bring to their lives, and the lives of their friends, family and community,” Ms Capp said.
“Almost 80 per cent of our Shepparton graduates have pursued careers in regional Victoria and added an impressive $13 million to Shepparton’s economy alone.
“It’s wonderful to know that number will only increase with the launch of the Bradford Shepparton Pathway Program.”
The Bradford Shepparton Pathway Program is open to any current Year 11 student attending Wanganui Park Secondary College, Shepparton High School, McGuire College and Mooroopna Secondary College.
The Bradford Shepparton Program provides support to Year 11 students from term four, and throughout Year 12, through:
- An intensive introduction day to University
- A fortnightly mentor program with current La Trobe University students. The sessions – lasting a minimum of 45 minutes – will guide and assist students with their planning, prioritising and general study skills
- Wellbeing workshops for students managing the demands and pressures associated with VCE/HSC
- Academic capacity building activities that will prepare students for their VCE examinations and provide students with the skills and confidence they need to proceed into tertiary education
- Parent engagement workshops that will educate parents on University as an option and help them understand the process involved in applying and enrolling.
- Regular engagement with students who have deferred or taken a gap year
A similar program was successfully piloted at La Trobe’s Albury-Wodonga campus in 2017. In its first year, the program engaged 69 students. A total of 22 first-round offers were made in Bachelor degrees across a broad range of disciplines. Of those students, 19 students enrolled. The most successful school saw an increase from an average of two school leavers enrolling in higher education per year to 13 students in the 2018 enrolment.
PHOTO (left to right): Elizabeth Capp, Jerrin Thyparambil, Breigha Noles, Alexandra Wynan, Alexandra Michael, Roger Gillespie, Professor Richard Speed