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'Why we keep coming back'

Courtney Boulter teacher at Mornington
Mornington Secondary College teacher Courteney Boulter says,

'the trip to hear school development manager, Lauren Eudey and her team is a regular excursion… I love these workshops. The biggest impression they make on our kids is from hearing the stories about individuals that the Salvos have helped along the way. They are stories about real people, and what they have been through – that helps break down the stereotypes about homeless people. The kids engage with the content.'

Courteney Boulter teaches PE and Health, and runs a special class called the Broad Horizons program to help year nine students at Mornington Secondary College gain a broader understanding of their society and the communities they live alongside. Courteney has taught science and maths (‘and everything in between’). She has found the year nine program, which she has undertaken for the past three years, very fulfilling.

Part of the richness of working with her year nine students has come from interacting with the ‘Salvos Schools, Youth Homelessness City Tour’ at Melbourne Project 614, at 69 Bourke Street, Melbourne. Courteney made her 10th trip to the Salvos with Mornington Secondary College students earlier this year, with a fresh batch of ‘year nines’. 

‘It is a regular excursion,’ she explains. ‘I love these workshops. The biggest impression they make on our kids is from hearing the stories about individuals that the Salvos have helped along the way.

‘They are stories about real people, and what they have been through – that helps break down the stereotypes about homeless people. The kids engage with the content.’

Courteney shares that the students come to ‘gradually understand that homelessness can happen to anyone; they get back to school and say, “I’m really lucky – I have a supportive family and friends.”’

Taking opportunities to cultivate empathy, Courteney says, is key to helping the students comprehend what life is like for others. ‘Like most students, our kids are a little bit self-centred;’ she says. ‘That’s part of being a teenager.

‘So, getting to hear about people who have different lives, and difficult experiences, helps them to get outside of their bubble. It helps them build understanding, compassion and resilience, and they realise the world doesn’t revolve around them.’

Courteney says Lauren and her team ‘are fantastic with the kids; that’s why we keep coming back. Our students are hesitant at first, but the Salvo facilitators coach, them, coax them and get good responses out of them. They can really “read” and reach the school groups.’

Part of the duty of care for Courteney and her colleagues is talking things through for children with close association with the issues that are presented. ‘With some kids we may need to step away from the group, and have our own chat. Lauren gives the children permission up front to take a break if they need to; that gives permission for them to come back to us, and have some “one on one” time.

A great deal of knowledge, learning and understanding comes to pass when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Just ask the kids from Mornington Secondary College.