Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

Ambitious program puts school leavers in the picture

This year Warrane College ran one of the most ambitious programs of its 40-year history – The Big Picture Program – designed to give Year 10 and 11 students an ‘inside look’ into university life and the world of professional work. The program was a great success, attracting dozens of participants from schools across NSW and the ACT.

It gave them the opportunity to learn about work and career success “straight from the lips of some of Australia’s top professionals”. Beyond equipping them to make wise career decisions, it aimed to cultivate “an awareness of the bigger picture, extending to an understanding and sense of responsibility for society and their relationships with family and friends”.

The College sought to help talented young men develop into well-rounded individuals – “men of character who will make a lasting impact on society”.

The program ran over six months, beginning with a residential conference at Warrane from July 8 to 12, 2012. Follow-up seminars were then run on one afternoon each month for the remainder of the year.

Forty students took part in the initial four-day conference, including 10 from Newcastle, three from Gosford and three from Canberra. Many of those who lived outside of Sydney managed to get along to the four seminars held in the second half of the year.

Among the many distinguished presenters and mentors for the program were former Fairfax CEO, All Blacks captain and Rhodes Scholar Dr David Kirk MBE, the Vice Chancellor of Macquarie University, Professor Steven Schwartz, Deputy Vice Chancellor International of the University of Sydney and Chief Executive of the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) Professor John Hearn, and Liberal MLA from the ACT Mr Alastair Coe.

“We have run pilot programs in previous years, but nothing on the scale of this program,” said Warrane’s Assistant Dean and the program’s director, Dr Timothy Shearer. “Overall we were very happy with the way things went.”

Dr Shearer said a highlight of the program was the professional mentoring sessions that were part of the initial conference. “Each of the participants was able to spend up to half an hour with someone from a professional field they were interested in. There was a whole range of professionals on hand, including architects, lawyers, doctors, accountants, scientists and so on,” he said.

“The boys thoroughly enjoyed it. You don’t get that kind of opportunity every day – to have a professional tell you what their working lives are like. From what they do on a day-to-day basis to what it is that motivates them.”

A member of the program’s Co-ordinating Committee, Mr Joaquin Reyes, said that he became involved because the aims of the program really resonated with him. “Many young people have no idea of what they will do after leaving school and, whatever goal it may be they’re aiming towards, aren’t quite sure how to get there,” he said. “The Big Picture Program aimed to help young students make career and life decisions. There were many sessions with universities and professionals from a range of backgrounds that gave the students a taste of different professions they may not have had access to otherwise.”

Mr Reyes said that beyond career direction, he believed the program’s greatest value was in assisting students to develop the sorts of habits and attitudes that would help them succeed in whatever field of life they chose.

“Rather than getting caught up in career day-dreams about what might be tomorrow,” he said, “the program was about helping students to build and nurture their character starting today, in the here and now.”

He said one of his motivations in getting involved was a desire to pass on to younger students some of the life lessons he learned “the long and hard way”.

“These were lessons I wish I had learned back in high school,” he said. “Not because I’m anything special, but because I truly believe there’s so much potential for great things locked inside of everyone. But the key to unlock it lies in the strength of one’s character.”

After the program, the College received emails from parents who said they had noticed a big change in their sons after the program. The general message was that their sons were more enthusiastic and worked harder at their studies. One mother wrote: “I would like to personally thank you and your team for The Big Picture Program. My son left home to attend your program as a young boy, a little lost and uncertain about his future. He arrived home so excited, positive, and focused. It’s hard to find the words to thank you enough!”

“We sat down last night to have a 'family meeting' and I really observed a big change in his attitude and outlook on life. He is focused on his school work and organizing his daily study schedule.”

Another mother also expressed her appreciation: “Thank you for offering The Big Picture Program this year. My son thoroughly enjoyed it and I can see that his outlook and thinking on career, study and life has really broadened.”

One of the participants of The Big Picture Program, Tom Williams, wrote: “For me this program has been one of the highlights of my life. I would like everyone to know that I'm grateful for what they've shared with me, what they've taught me and what they've shown me.”

Maclean Greedy, a Year 11 student from Merewether High School, wrote: “The program was an awesome experience. I learnt a great deal and I am very grateful for all of the work that everyone has done to make it happen.”

Mitchell Derbyshire from Gosford High School said: “This program is a life changer; I literally loved every moment.”

Chris Leroy from Sydney Grammar wrote: “Thanks guys, this was an awesome experience. I met heaps of people, listened to amazing speeches and did some amazing things. I’d recommend this to all people my age.”

Many others will have the chance to be involved in 2013 when another, even bigger program is being planned.

Speakers

A/ Prof. Peter Heslin, Dr David Kirk MBE, Peter Harris, Matthew Johnstone, A/ Prof. Sandra Lynch, Deanna Lane, Alistair Coe MLA, Dr Angus Brook, Prof. Steven Schwartz, Prof. Neil Weste, Peter Saccasan, Peter Limbers, Dr James O’Sullivan, Prof. John Hearn, Hon Dominic Perrottet MP, Dr Gerald Fogarty, Dr Marco Navone, Dr Gabriel Aguirre-Ollinger. Jared Yee, Xavier Symons, Daniel Symons, Bill Cannon, Eugene Choi, Tom Chen, Daniel Santos

Professional Mentors

Bill Cannon, Mark Boffa, Michael Mendietta, Richard Priestly, Rod Cox, William Woo, Moussa Moussa, Pillai Sekhar, Dr Martin Cullen, Aidan Shi, Eugene Choi

Co-ordinating Committee and Personal Mentors

Dr Timothy Shearer, Joaquin Reyes, Brodie Wilkes, Thomas Ryan, Sebastian Burfitt, Daniel Marinari, Gerard Weber, Karl San Pedro, Joe Jabour, Seb James, Richard Sofatzis, Truman Biro, Matt Lennon, Andrew Santucci, Rowan Light, John Paul Hinojosa

Ambassadors

Ananthan Ambikairajah, Greg Aouad, Leo Phan, Brendan Wilkins, Charitha Katupitiya, Henry Kha

Participants

Davin Alima, Bryce Anderson, William Brennan, Luke Brouwer, Duncan Burns, Zane Butler, Nathan Cleary, Damon Coull, Tyler Coutts, Grant Cresswell, Ben Crosbie, Joseph Daaboul, Clemens Del Rosario, Mitchell Derbyshire, Harrison Dineen, Paul Fam, Sean Graham, Maclean Greedy, Antonio Harb, Patrick Hartsuyker, Anthony Healey, Daniel Huang, Maxwell Irish, Luke Japon, Martin Khuu, Christopher Leroy, Dom Marquis, Beau McEvoy, Mason McKertich, Jean-Claude Perrottet, Xavier Poon, Arjun Raju, David Rossi, Michael Squires, Joseph Stevens, Tom Williams, Wilson Xu, Mikey Zambrano

Sponsors and Supporters

UNSW, Macquarie University, Portico Books and Fine Stationery, Watson Business Accountants, Boneham Optometrists, Box Catering, Teys Lawyers, mhscareers.com