Felicity Liston has a favourite quote: “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”.
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And the Listons are definitely aiming high, with the help of education charity, The Smith Family.
Felicity and her siblings Joshua, Rochelle and Matthias have all benefited from The Smith Family “Learning for Life” programs.
But an unexpected bonus has been a life-changing educational experience for their mum Rebecca.
When their father was made redundant from a Ballarat manufacturing company in 2009, the Listons became eligible for The Smith Family programs.
Joshua and Felicity – both keen cyclists - began by taking part in the Bay In A Day Ride as part of The Smith Family team.
In 2012, Felicity, who was in year 8 at Phoenix P-12 Community College, became a reading buddy in The Smith Family’s student2student program.
“My part in the program was to become a tutor for younger students and I looked forward to picking up the phone after school to listen to my buddy read,” Felicity said.
In 2014, she was also in a student2student trial using a voice conference call on an iPad app called Chattykids, rather than the phone.
“There were a few technical difficulties but it was fun to be a part of trying out a new way to learn, and providing useful feedback.”
In 2013 and 2014, Felicity, an avid flautist, took part in the SmArts Program, which is a nine week training scheme where musical students are taught by an industry musician.
Her flute was hired by The Smith Family, which Felicity said allowed her to finally see her musical potential.
After each nine week program, the students performed a final concert, with Felicity picked to perform a solo each time, including a jazz piece with improvisation.
“To just enable yourself to let go and have the music take you on a journey, that you can’t remember what notes you played after the music stops, is a feeling I won’t forget.”
In year 10, Felicity entered an online mentor program called iTrack where she spoke with a university mentor once a week for advice on studying efficiently, life at university and helping guide future career pathways.
“My participation and involvement with The Smith Family helps me to excel higher than I thought I could achieve and motivate others to excel with me.
“The best aspect about my experience as a Learning for Life student is that it’s a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve had a positive impact on someone else’s learning while you are learning also.
“I love to think that my knowledge can help and encourage someone else’s.
“This has made me want to keep inspiring other people, using myself as an example of motivation.
“You have the power to help somebody, and sharing what you know with another person will, in turn, give you the chance to learn something new from them also.”
Rochelle and Matthis have also benefited from The Smith Family’s literacy and numeracy programs while Joshua is now studying at Federation University after also using the programs while at school.
But what their mother Rebecca didn’t expect was to find herself “Learning for Life” as well.
Rebecca completed half a term of year 11 before leaving to start work at a Beaufort supermarket.
She did receptionist work at Stawell Gold Mine before marrying and having her children.
“I was lucky enough to be able to stay home and look after them,” Rebecca said.
But when her husband Chris lost his job, Rebecca was introduced to the Australian Catholic University’s Clemente Program for adult learning, with the help of The Smith Family.
“They said to me ‘ would you like to do this’ and I went ‘what, I don’t have time for this,” Rebecca laughed.
But she decided to give it a go and began a sociology unit in 2009.
“We’d be eating tea and Mum would be on her laptop and we’d be going ‘haven’t you written that essay yet?’” Felicity said.
Rebecca said she completed an essay and an oral presentation, which her tutor said was university standard.
“Then I did an ethics unit and I wrote another essay and did another presentation and I found it really interesting.”
Rebecca said she always wanted to be a nurse but thought she “wouldn’t be good enough”.
But she applied for Federation University and was accepted.
“I got in and I thought ‘what do I do now’. But it was something so new to me, so awesome. I wasn’t just someone’s mum anymore.
“I could actually get out there and do it.”
After graduating, Rebecca applied for a 16 week transition program at St John of God Hospital which was four days a week and often 7am starts.
“It was a really big change for the family as well.”
Rebecca then had to do three months probation at St John’s, which she said proved very challenging as her first review showed “I was only here and I had to be there”.
“I just had to work my butt off. I was clutching at it, just trying to keep that job. I was striving really hard.”
Rebecca said, without her ACU lecturer believing in her, she would “probably be looking in the paper for clerical work” but is now working in the hospital’s cardiac ward.
The Smith Family has recently launched its annual Winter Appeal and aims to raise $3.65 million by June 30 to fund its crucial learning support programs for disadvantaged children.
The Smith Family’s Victorian general manager Anton Leschen has urged the community to support the appeal, with more than $2.1 million still needed.
“Without the ongoing generosity of the community, thousands of young people will miss out on valuable opportunities that could mean the difference between them staying engaged at school, or falling further behind,” Mr Leschen said.
He said the learning support programs being funded included the long-running student2student reading support program for children, which was now being trialled in a digital format.
“Educational disadvantage begins early in a child’s life and continues through school and beyond. Research shows that a disadvantaged child is more likely to experience financial hardship as an adult.
‘However, supporting a disadvantaged child’s education is one of the most effective ways to help them break the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage and improve their future employment, income, health and welfare prospects.
“Completing Year 12, or its equivalent, increases the likelihood that these young people will move into further study or employment, and create a better future for themselves.
“By supporting the education of disadvanted children, we can all play a part in ending poverty, one student at a time.”
To donate, phone 1800 024 069.
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