Suburbs Regional Evening College Inc
Headstart provided creative opportunities for 50 at risk young people.
Headstart linked youth health workshops with music and art programs
and proved to be an effective means of providing marginalised young
people with important information in ways relevant to the lifestyle
of the target group. The creative environment led to a natural development
of language, literacy and numeracy skills. Headstart also demonstrated
the many advantages of interagency collaboration.
Eastern Suburb's Regional Evening College (ESREC) has worked for
a number of years with the Sydney City Mission's Creative Youth
Initiatives Centre (CYI) as part of its HELP outreach strategy.
Through its HELP program, ESREC funds tutors involved in the CYI's
Sound of the Streets and Artworks initiatives to conduct programs
aimed at improving young people's literacy skills.
Sound of the Streets and Artworks have a strong track record of
achieving positive outcomes for disadvantaged young people. Music
and art activities provide meaningful contexts in which young people
can explore the issues most relevant to them. The HELP component
gives them the opportunity to develop skills that can be transferred
to either further training or employment.
However, both agencies believed there was scope for developing and
extending the program to address health and personal development
issues such as drugs and alcohol, sexuality and gender identification.
Many disadvantaged young people resist exploring these issues in
conventional settings, feeling alienated and uncomfortable in group
workshops and individual counselling sessions.
Headstart, the Strategic Pilot Project, aimed to enhance current
activities by testing innovative outreach and bridging strategies
to encourage at risk young people to undertake further education
and training or to find employment.
The objective was to use arts based activities, such as creative
writing, drama, music, video production and computers to improve
the literacy and numeracy skills of participants.
Both ESREC and CYI also wanted to strengthen existing strategic
alliances with other youth service organisations servicing a similar
Headstart allowed the three-day Sounds of the Street and Artworks
program to be offered five days a week for 20 weeks. This provided
a more permanent point of contact for participants, and allowed
staff to develop stronger relationships with the clients and promote
an expanded range of activities.
Greater access to resources and additional time meant participants
produced a range of professional art products and were able to experience
what it is like to be a professional artist. By moving across a
range of disciplines, students were able to develop different knowledge
Fifty young people took part in Headstart over a period of 20 weeks.
The standard of the young people's work, the high retention rates
and the changes in student behaviour were all positive outcomes
of the project.
Headstart linked youth health workshops with creative expression
and proved to be an effective means of providing the young people
with important information about sexuality, safe sex, relationships,
mental health, drug and alcohol, conflict resolution and dealing
The information was presented in a narrative, consultative framework
that proved to be most effective in engaging the target group. Participants
expressed their enthusiasm for this mode of learning and in every
case indicated that the information they had gained would, they
felt, reduce risk behaviours and promote a safer and healthier lifestyle.
Some participants who, despite previous contact with HELP, had been
unable to enter formal training or education, had the opportunity
to develop their skills in a creative environment. Tutors believe
that some of these will now enrol in further education and training
courses and are better equipped to seek employment.
ESREC now offers a more integrated service and has widened its collaboration
with other agencies, particularly in the area of health, literacy
and personal development. The collaborative approach of the project
produced a comprehensive and holistic program that yielded positive
results for both participants and the agencies themselves.
The strategic integration of personal development activities into
a general art, music and literacy curriculum contributed to the
success of the project. Participants had access to a wide range
of arts disciplines, in particular the popular area of performing
Sydney City Mission's status as a Registered Training Organisation
allowed easy access to the formal VET system, in particular, accredited
courses in art and music, self-paced learning in computer skills
and ESP Literacy
The high level
of interagency collaboration also contributed to the success of
Headstart worked exceptionally well and project staff feel the only
changes they would make would be to introduce additional activities