Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Program offers meaningful connections with youth

Campaspe Cohuna Youth Connections case manager Rodney Young has a unique way of connecting with youth.

RENEE THOMPSON May 23, 2014 8:38am

Young people involved with Campaspe Cohuna Youth Connections are devastated to learn case managers like Rodney Young (third from right) face an uncertain future from next year.

One of Rodney Young’s favourite things to do with his clients is go for a walk.

‘‘It’s simple, it’s about human connections. It’s not rocket science,’’ the Youth Connections worker said.

It is part of his unconventional show-don’t-tell approach to helping youth overcome barriers.

Campaspe Cohuna Youth Connections has enjoyed nationwide recognition for re-engaging a higher than average number of young people into study or work since its inception in 2010.

Mr Young is one of two remaining CCYC case managers who will continue working out of the program’s Hare St office until the end of the year, when federal funding for the nationwide Youth Connections program dries up.

While the number has fluctuated in recent years, this year Mr Young has a case load which sees him in regular contact with about 10 at-risk youth a week.

‘‘It’s not just the kids, it’s the families you work with and the teachers,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve only got a small window of time to meet with them and make a difference in their lives, so you need to make sure the other connections in their lives are working, too.

‘‘But you can only do this stuff by building their confidence in you.

‘‘They’re not going to hang out with you if they don’t want.’’

Then there those who are ‘‘off the books’’ — those who were part of the program at one stage and who have now moved on, but still keep in touch.

One such young person is Hudson Essex, 16.

Hudson was part of the Youth Connections program for about eight months about three years ago.

He said he first met Mr Young while doing a separate, school-based program.‘‘Rod was there... he was there for me when I was doing it,’’ Hudson said.

But Mr Young had also been there for him on numerous times since finishing up at Youth Connections.

‘‘Sometimes he helps and you don’t even know it,’’ he said.‘‘I got kicked out of class one day and he said, ‘I’m going shopping, want to come?’ and then we just started talking.’’

Hudson said he was concerned about the program coming to an end.

Another former Youth Connections participant, Shane Duus, said it was thanks to case workers like Mr Young and Sherran Hanckock that he had overcome a drug addition.

‘‘They’ve helped me keep out of trouble and be drug free for the past nine months now,’’ Shane said.

‘‘I grew up in Queensland and couldn’t find anyone to talk to. Then I moved down here and bam, they were just great.’’

The 17-year-old said Mr Young’s sense of humour had helped him through a bad period after a few deaths in the family.

‘‘Some of the things he did and said just made me laugh,’’ he said.

‘‘Half the time you don’t know he’s helping but he is. Sometimes you feel you’re just messing around but then you realise later it’s really helpful.’’

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