La Trobe University yesterday launched a higher education pathway program to help Shepparton high school students have a better chance of attending university.
The Bradford Shepparton Pathway will see Year 11 and 12 Shepparton secondary school students mentored by volunteers from the university.
University Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Speed said the program would give students the skills and confidence needed to attend university.
‘‘It’s a combination of workshops around studying skills, wellbeing programs to help the students relax and cope with stress, but also mentoring,’’ he said,
‘‘So all of the school students work with the university students who can talk to them about the challenges of the process they are going through.’’.
The university received $250000 from the Gillespie Family Foundation to launch the program to improve educational pathways and life opportunities for the region’s youth.
Presently, only 13 per cent of people in Shepparton take part in higher education, compared with 50 and 35 per cent in Melbourne and Australia.
Prof Speed said Shepparton’s participation rate was shameful.
‘‘It has nothing to do with the quality of the kids and the effort teachers put in, but it’s about the resources and opportunities they are given,’’ he said.
Wanganui Park Secondary College, Shepparton High School, McGuire College and Mooroopna Secondary College students will take part in the program, which was similar to a successful one at La Trobe University in Albury.
Nursing student Lexie Michael took part in the Albury program when she was in Year 12 and said the program helped her realise her full potential.
‘‘It gave me the tools while in Year 12 to understand how uni life worked and realised the opportunities that were there which really set my fire even more to want to go,’’ she said.
Each student receives individually-designed program to make sure it meets their interests and goals.
The mentors will meet students at least once a fortnight to keep students motivated and check they are coping.
Students enrolled in the program will receive an early conditional place to La Trobe University and access to a pool of financial support where necessary.
University head-of-campus Elizabeth Capp said the program would 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,’’ she said.
About 80 per cent of graduates from the university have pursued careers in regional Victoria, which has added $13million to Shepparton economy.