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Sally helps students to broaden their horizons

It was an incredible week for Sally and the 12 Learning for Life students who were accepted into the Bella art program. Made possible by the Museum of Contemporary Art and our corporate partners, Bella is a four day art workshop program in Sydney. It was a week of firsts for many of the Year 10 and 11 students: first time at an art museum; first time away from home; and first time to the city.

Being able to explore their talents and speak with mentors who work in the art industry was a transformational experience that will have a lasting impact on the students’ futures.

Sally family news
Learning for Life Coordinator, Sally

I think it's a big step forward for those kids who think they could do stuff, but they’ve often been disappointed in life. When they get this kind of opportunity it really boosts them,

It’s a big task for Sally and two of our other Learning for Life Program Coordinators, Cheryl and Laure. Not only do they handle the applications at the start of the process, but they arrange the travel to Sydney, meals and activities for after the workshop hours.

Cheryl believes their most vital role is using the program to open students’ minds to the many possibilities for the future.

“It's quite a big experience. I think part of the Bella concept is that it's not just about art—it's about the whole person. It’s about giving them experiences that are going to broaden their world view,” says Cheryl.

Sally says parents are amazed by the difference in their children’s confidence when they return home. Stepping out of their comfort zone, meeting new people with common interests and having their talents nurtured gives students the chance to build their self-esteem and aspirations.

“I had a conversation with one of the girls. She wants to work in community service, but she wants to do an art therapy kind of thing,” says Sally.

“She was saying: ‘I think I’ll do community service, my Cert I or Cert III.’ I said: ‘Great. Or have you thought about uni?’ We talked about that because she didn’t have the confidence and I said: ‘Don’t stop there. Don’t ever discount the fact that you can go on to uni.’”

One of the things that we encourage the students to do in speaking with the staff at the art galleries is to ask them about pathways for their careers … [it helps] them think outside the box.

Bella participant
Learning for Life participant in a previous Bella workshop

With only two Bella programs per year, Learning for Life Program Coordinators review applications carefully to ensure they select students who are likely to get the most out of the program. Each student must have a commitment to art and display talent, as well as references from their teachers about their community spirit.

Each day after the workshop finishes, Sally, Cheryl and Laure organise cultural experiences the students would otherwise miss out on, especially the ones from regional areas. They visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Powerhouse Museum and even Madame Tussauds wax museum.

While Sally looks forward to Bella, it is just one aspect of her role. Every day she spends time getting to know the children and families she supports, so she can connect them with our learning programs or other opportunities within the community.

Ongoing support throughout their education helps students to realise their potential. Bella is not the first program Sally has arranged for her student interested in art therapy.

“She’s got a quite few health issues. I think she's just learned to be in the corner. I met her through the iTrack program. When Bella came up I said: ‘Oh, I really want you to apply for this,’” says Sally.

These programs really work. Think of a family living on very small amount of money fortnightly. They can't afford even a museum entry,

I've spoken to her teacher, her year's supervisor and her mum, and they've all said that her confidence has grown.

After sharing her experiences with us over the last 12 months, Sally is excited about the coming year. She is proud of having planned, launched and implemented our early literacy program Let’s Read in her community, and is determined to reach more students and families.

“There are kids who are desperately in need of extra help and can't get it because their parents just can't afford it. I don’t want them to slip through the cracks. Next year I'd like to do even more of the program work, working more closely with our students,” says Sally.

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