Winner of the 2023 Outstanding Out-of-School-Hours Learning Support Program Newcomer Award

Melton Education Program, St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria

We interviewed Karishma Mohan, the Education Coordinator of Melton and Maidstone Education Programs, about winning Outstanding OSHLSP Newcomer.

Maureen Mohr and Karishma Mohan with The Hon. Natalie Hutchins, Minister for Education & Women

As a newcomer, your OSHLSP was only established in 2021! Tell us about the last two years at the Melton Education Program.

Our Melton Education Program has undergone quite a transformative journey. When it started, it was impacted by Covid lockdown challenges. Ensuring our students received the support they needed, we adapted swiftly by offering remote learning opportunities. As we transitioned back to face-to-face learning, we were able to make an even bigger positive impact and were thrilled to see student numbers growing.

By providing a safe and inclusive learning environment, we’ve empowered students. We’ve also created a welcoming space for parents from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, forging meaningful friendships.

Furthermore, we’ve established strong relationships with St Francis Catholic College. Their students volunteer with us, offering invaluable support while developing leadership skills. Together, we’ve nurtured a sense of belonging in Melton. It’s a source of great pride for St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria (SVDPV).

What has been a highlight of your program so far?

The highlight of the program has been the relationships built by everyone involved. Our volunteers love attending the program. Many tell us that it is the highlight of their week because they enjoy working with the students.

Our student volunteers are always enthused to work with their buddies, playing fun learning games with them and sharing their knowledge. They have established friendships with one another and feel supported by our volunteers socio-emotionally. Consequently, we have witnessed tremendous growth in their literacy, confidence and self-efficacy.

Personally, my favourite part of every session is when we focus on speaking and listening through group sharing. We are lucky to be part of such a multicultural community in Melton and have witnessed some exceptional learning take place in the program through exchanging culture, learning languages and providing a safe space for everyone to share their diverse stories. 

Alongside the Melton Education Program, you also coordinate the Maidstone Education Program, which was the runner up in OSHLSP of the Year – Metropolitan category. St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria also had a winner in the Outstanding Student – Primary category and runners up in the Outstanding Volunteer and Outstanding Student – Primary categories, which is a huge achievement. What makes your programs so successful?

Our SVDPV Education Programs are based on a well-researched framework of trauma-informed practice, meaning we provide a safe space for students to engage in education. We also provide a structured and welcoming environment for students to learn and play, built on a foundation of a growth mindset and strengths-based approach. Students are able to thrive in our education programs because our Education Coordinators plan their activities carefully to engage and support students without judgement. 

Most importantly, our programs owe their success to our exceptional volunteers, ranging from high school students to retirees. Their generosity, kindness, experience and dedication ensure that our programs provide high-quality services to our communities consistently. We place a strong emphasis on enhancing our volunteers’ experience, achieved through regular self-reflection sessions and professional development opportunities provided by the Education Coordinator, SVDPV and external organisations to enhance our volunteers’ skills and knowledge continuously.

How does it feel to win this award and what does it mean for Melton Education Program?

Being an OSHLSP and occupying a unique space in the Melton community, winning a MY Education Award is incredibly special, particularly for our incredible volunteers and families involved in the program!

Winning this award further solidifies SVDPV’s commitment to providing education and opportunity to diverse communities such as Melton. Albeit in its nascent stages, the Melton Education Program has grown tremendously in uptake amongst students in the area over the last few years. We hope the enhanced visibility from winning this award will help the program grow in size, scope and impact.  

St Vincent de Paul Society staff, volunteers, & students who attended the MY Education Awards, pictured with The Hon. Natalie Hutchins, Minister for Education & Women

Photo credit: Harjono Djoyobisono

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