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

Recapping this year’s Big Picture Program

From 3-7 July of this year, 16 boys from Years 10 and 11 descended on the halls of Warrane College, anticipating the encounter of a lifetime. They were about to experience the annual Big Picture Program: a crash course for leaders of the future, chock-a-block full of practical advice for life after school in the realm of university and careers.

Blaise Joseph, one of the directors of the program, said that the program began in response to stressed school-leavers, and that it helps them to hit the ground running after the HSC with a fuller understanding of their options.

“It’s basically a combination of three things,” said Blaise. “First is workshops and talks, so helping them with study, or career options, or university options…  plus things like pressure tests, or working in teams to overcome problems.”

“The second thing we do is visit universities [University of Sydney, UNSW, UTS and Notre Dame]… And when there, learn all about that university – what it’s good for, why people would go there, what degrees are best there and so on. So basically they get a feel for the different degree options at the different universities.”

“And the third one is basically going to workplaces,” continues Blaise. “So going to companies and seeing what the various professions are like.”

Between arriving on Sunday and leaving on Thursday, the boys heard from a variety of speakers (the keynote speaker being Joe Mastrangelo, a leader in the financial services sector); visited multiple workplaces (including NSW Supreme Court, Mater Hospital and Atlassian – a software business that was a favourite for its youthful culture); got professional mentoring; and heard about college life from Warrane residents.

Even with so much uni and career advice in the program, the hope is that the boys get an idea of the bigger picture, as the program’s name suggests. Or as Blaise put it, how they can best use their talents to serve society: “So obviously overall, these are all pretty smart kids who are coming to the program, but they haven’t put a lot of thought into exactly what they’re going to be doing at university or once they finish university. So we really want them to start thinking now – what are you going to do when you go to university? What are you good at? How can you serve society?”

Not all applicants were lucky enough to come along – as Blaise explained, the program only accepted boys who made it clear that they understood what it was all about. “We have [application] questions like ‘Why do you want to come on the program?’, ‘What are your main goals in the next five years?’, and ‘Tell us about a time when you showed leadership, or a time when you did something you didn’t really want to do, but it was the right thing to do.’ We’re certainly looking for people who get what the program’s all about; who get that it’s equipping them to be leaders for when they leave school. A spirit of service is what we’re looking for.”

Judging by the feedback from the boys who did make it in, the program was certainly worthwhile. Comments ranged from ‘the whole experience was amazing’ and ‘mentoring was good and all leaders were fun, caring and entertaining’; to ‘it opens your eyes to all the opportunities’ and ‘the diversity of places we visited was very insightful, as well as understanding the experiences of professionals’. Plus that it was ‘great to talk and network with the other participants’; and not a few participants highlighted the delicious food.

Year 10 student Cody Tooth, from Riverina Anglican College, had some good things to say when he summed up his overall experience of the program. “It was an amazing time,” he said. “Every part of it – from staying at Warrane, to going out to other universities; it was all just a generally good experience. I got so much out of it.”

“I would be highly willing to recommend it for absolutely any other student,” continued Cody. “It just brings out the best in people. And you talk to kids, same age, that are willing to learn the same skills and values. And it’s so good. It’s so rewarding and fulfilling to do.”

From Blaise’s point of view, it was clear that a change could be seen in the group of boys from the start to the end of the program. “They’re definitely a lot more bonded together,” he said. “Obviously you have students from lots of different schools so at first they’re a bit shy… and unsure of what they’re doing. And then by the end they’re really confident, they love the college, they’re really good friends with each other, and they’ve kept up friendships long after the program’s finished.”

And perhaps the best feedback of all? The fact that so many of this year’s helpers were themselves previous graduates of the program – they loved it so much that they came back and volunteered their time to help younger boys.

As for the most rewarding part of the program for the directors, Blaise thinks it would be the very end. “On the last day before they all left, we showed them a video – just a summary of all they’ve learnt and all they’ve done during the week… At the end of that there was a great buzz, they all started applauding and realised ‘We’ve gone through so much this week; we’ve learnt so much; and we’re different people after having done that program.’ So in terms of satisfaction, if there’s one moment, that’s probably