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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Youth given a hand

The Smith Family has supported young people with their schooling and has helped more than 700 families during the past ten years, but says more funding is needed.

RIAHN SMITH October 14, 2012 6:12am

The Smith Family has a proud history of helping those in need and to celebrate its 90th birthday it says it wants to do more.

The organisation’s Learning for Life program has been running in Shepparton for more than a decade and currently offers financial sponsorship for about 700 families.

Students are referred to the program by their school and are eligible for funding from Prep through to any tertiary studies.

The money comes from anonymous sponsors, so there is no direct contact between parties, although sponsors do receive a yearly update on how the student is faring.

In addition to financial help, students are offered a range of school-based activities such as learning clubs and reading programs.

Janet Green is a Learning for Life worker who has been with the program for five and a half years and has seen the positive effect on local students firsthand.

“I just love the job, it’s a really rewarding job, it feels like you help to make a difference,” Ms Green said.

“I think it brings a whole range of opportunities to people that they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

One opportunity in particular is the mentoring program which pairs Year 11 students with mentors in the corporate world.

“They chat with the students online once a week for 20 weeks about their aims, goals, hopes and aspirations and help them figure out where they want to go and how to get there,” Ms Green said.

“Its a great opportunity for them and were always really keen for people to help out in any way they can.”

For Ms Green, the most satisfying part of her job is receiving feedback from the students and families.

“We have students that have gone through the whole scholarship and are now talking about becoming sponsors or helping the Smith Family in some other way,’’ she said.

“They’re trying to work out what they can do to give back.”

Smith Family chief executive Dr Lisa O’Brien said improving the educational performance of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds was at the heart of the organisation’s work and called for more support for their efforts.

“We need to harness the time, talent and dollars of individual supporters, businesses, key philanthropists and governments to support our work with children, their families and the communities in which they live,” Dr OBrien said.

“In five years’ time we will be able to look back and know that, together, we have made a far greater impact on kids in need in Australia.”

For more information visit www.thesmithfamily.com.au/learningforlife, or contact the Shepparton office on 58589898.

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