Ballarat education and social service providers are working to develop a world-first program to engage youth in education.
Clemente Ballarat program partners have applied for $3 million funding to establish Clemente Australia Youth, a transformational education program for vulnerable, educationally disengaged and welfare dependent young people.
The pitch for the youth program follows the success of the internationally renowned Clemente Program that engages people experiencing disadvantage and social isolation in university-level education.
The worldwide program offering free humanities education in courses such as philosophy, history and sociology has been running in Ballarat since 2008.
Centacare Clemente Ballarat steering committee member Debbie Mannix said the program was a starting point for people who had dropped out or did not have the financial capability to connect with education.
"It is not the end result that is important, it is the pathway and giving people an opportunity to make good choices in their lives," she said.
"We had a beautiful example of a single mum sitting at a kitchen table with four kids. She was doing her study and the kids were out of control. Eventually the kids started sitting with mum at the table to study and now those kids have all gone on to finish year 12.
"We have had people win scholarships to Melbourne University, others go onto to do further education and some go on to do social work."
The Clemente Ballarat program is a partnership between Australian Catholic University, Federation University Australia, Centacare, The City of Ballarat, The Ballarat Foundation and The Smith Family.
You give a person a roof over their head, a safe place to live and then you offer them an education with high support. We know this has potential.Debbie Mannix, Centacare
Classes are held at the Ballarat Library, avoiding a university setting that can be overwhelming to people who have been disengaged from education.
Class sizes range from 10 to 15 people and each student has a one on one relationships with a volunteer support learning partner.
Participants who complete the program graduate with other ACU graduates.
ACU Clemente Ballarat academic coordinator Dr Steve Else said the program was looking for new partners to support an expansion of students, facilities and resources.
He spoke at the Clemente Ballarat conference held at the Town Hall on Thursday about how emotional intelligence research could support the program and help develop a new version, Clemente Australia Youth.
If $3 million funding from the Department of Education and Training is secured, the Ballarat partnership will develop a youth program to roll out as a pilot in Ballarat, Bendigo, Gippsland and Hobart - areas identified with high rates of youth disengagement from education.
The youth program curriculum will also focus on humanities, subjects Mr Else said had the ability to 'wake people up educationally' and give them the confidence to ask questions of themselves and of society around them.
"You give a person a roof over their head, a safe place to live and then you offer them an education with high support," Ms Mannix said.
"We know this has potential."