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Kokoda kids go to uni


Zuleika Henderson
7 June 2010

‘Kokoda kids’ from the Gold Coast are celebrating completing their first semester at university

Three former ‘Kokoda kids’ from the Gold Coast are celebrating completing their first semester at university after swapping their hiking boots for thinking caps and beginning study at Southern Cross University earlier this year.

The University is the Education Partner for the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program, which consists of intensive physical training, teamwork exercises and community service activities designed to help ‘Kokoda Kids’ aged 16-18 years develop the self confidence, teamwork and leadership skills they need to realise their full potential. The program includes the opportunity to travel to Papua New Guinea to walk the real Kokoda track and do volunteer work in local villages.

Bronte Morton and Rayce Bukarica participated in the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program last year and are now studying a Bachelor of Nursing and a Bachelor of Visual Arts respectively, while Carissa Stass, who completed the program in 2007, has just finished the SCU academic skills course Preparing for Success and is planning to begin a Bachelor of Visual Arts next year.

“I never thought I would be going to university - I got half way through year 12 and I didn’t know what to do because I was interested in studying art but I didn’t have the right grades,” said Gold Coast-based Carissa.

“Through the Youth Program I met Southern Cross University staff who gave me advice and told me about the Preparing for Success course that could help me gain entry to the course I wanted to do.

“The combination of Preparing for Success and being a Kokoda kid has been powerful – Preparing for Success has given me the confidence to deal with university level assignments and know what is expected of me, while the Youth Program has given me the courage to overcome obstacles and achieve my goals.”

Bronte Morton from Burleigh said she had originally planned to take a year off after completing school, but changed her mind after completing the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program.

“I heard about SCU through the program, and by the end I was inspired to go on and do something positive and worthwhile so I decided to get stuck into university straight away,” said Bronte.

“After experiencing Papua New Guinea as a Kokoda kid I realised I wanted to travel and work in under-developed countries to help make a difference, so that’s where I would like to put my nursing skills into practice once I graduate.”

Independent youth researcher, Tanya Scott found that teenagers who have taken part in the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program experience benefits such as increased confidence, physical fitness, improved academic results and new-found friends.

“I was amazed that more than 95 per cent of the young people I interviewed said that the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program was a turning point in their lives, helping them to put changes into practice on a daily basis at home, school and in their places of employment,” said Ms Scott.

“I have been a youth worker on the Gold Coast in a variety of services over a 10-year period, and this is the first time I have experienced this kind of success from a youth program.

“I believe that this largely due to the culture of the program which promotes a sense of belonging.”

Photo: (L-R) Bronte Morton, Rayece Bukarica and Carissa Stass take a break from studies at Southern Cross University Lakeside in Tweed Heads(high resolution image available on request)