Despite a few challenges due to the re-emergence of Covid, spirits remained high as 21 Nourish students graduated safely last month across Adelaide, Newcastle and Sydney – feeding friends, families and funders following 18 weeks of learning (and many laughs!).
The Nourish journey involved a total of 32 events for staff, volunteers, VIPs and the community, and even provided our amazing OzHarvest drivers with lunch to go. The functions tested the student’s new skills in work-experience settings under the guidance of program and RTO staff. Even the graduation ceremonies were a stealth assessment, as the students planned, prepared and served the menus!
Seven students graduated from the inaugural Newcastle Nourish Program. For Lead Trainer Richard Stark, getting the first group over the line had been a long time coming with the pandemic delaying the start by a year. “With the disruption of Covid it was a challenge but worth the wait,” Richard said. “Graduation was full of emotion. The students were confident, energised and beaming with pride. To have family and friends there to cheer them on and be a part of their achievements was very special.”
Following her first semester in the Sydney Lead Trainer hot seat, Liz Hipwell reflected on the responsibility that comes with the role. Faced with an energetic and challenging group, the Sydney team ripped up the playbook and restructured classes midway through the program. “It helped us keep the students focused and engaged,” Liz said. “I felt very responsible for the outcomes they would achieve. Academically, the life skills we could imprint, and for them to feel accepted. Their attitudes shifted when we had completed barista training. We had gained their trust. I think they could feel that they were achieving something.”
Even with experience of nine previous intakes, there are still surprises for Adelaide Lead Trainer Ruth Byham. Among the June graduates was a 16-year-old whose dexterity and learning difficulties initially looked like they would prevent him from getting his qualification. He proved everyone wrong. “It never ceases to amaze me the resilience of the students we see come through Nourish”, Ruth said. “They face challenges most of us can’t imagine. I’m so proud to be part of a program that is able to adapt to the unique and challenging needs of our students.”
Recruitment is underway for the second intake of 2021, with the team working within the latest lockdown restrictions by hosting student interviews remotely where face-to-face isn’t possible. We hope to be able to start in all locations in August.