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    FOUNDATIONS OF THE FUTURE: Nine Ararat participants were part of a Western Bulldogs Youth Leadership Project camp from earlier in the year.

‘Incredible bunch’ of graduates

The entire September 15, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

Nine young Ararat district residents have celebrated their graduation from a Western Bulldogs’ Youth Leadership Project.

Program leaders highlighted participant accomplishments during an online graduation ceremony.

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Western Bulldogs Community Foundation general manager Kashif Bouns, Bulldogs player Cody Weightman, Ararat Rural City Council chief executive Tim Harrison and Ararat Cr Bill Waterston spoke during the ceremony.

Now in its fourth year, the project aims to help develop community leaders aged between 14 and 16 through a sixth-month program in Ararat.

The program encourages Ararat’s youth to interact with key leaders in the community, develop their leadership skills and create a social-impact project.

Dr Harrison said the Ararat council was proud to celebrate the achievements of the participants.

“I’ve had the opportunity to speak with the group on several occasions, and they’re an incredible bunch of young people,” he said.

“We’re fortunate to partner with the WBCF to deliver such a great program, which without the efforts of co-ordinators wouldn’t have been possible.

“It’s exciting to see there’s interest from young people in working with council to have their voices heard and help us shape their future.

“As part of the project, a new Ararat Youth Group will be formed with the participants to engage with the council. 

“The group will address challenges facing young people in our community.”

Co-ordinators Hannah Singleton and Maggie Toohey said they were particularly proud of the Ararat group, which despite having experienced three lockdowns, persevered with online sessions and completed their social-
impact projects.

“We congratulate all the participants on their achievements and incredible motivation in creating their social-impact projects and contributing to meaningful conversations about their community,” Ms Toohey said.

“From bonding with other members at camp to listening to community guest speakers, the participants have been one of the most engaged and enthusiastic groups in the program.

“Over the six months, participants discussed topics from gender equality, mental health, leadership styles and public speaking and celebrated culture while working on their social-impact projects.”

Participant Amber Bligh applied for the program after hearing a passionate student speak about her experience with the program.

“I was extremely happy to find out that I had been accepted to the program – I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and improve my public speaking skills,” she said.

“My favourite part of the program has been attending camp. 

“Meeting people from all backgrounds has been an amazing opportunity and I’m thankful for all the new friends I’ve made from the program.

“To me, this program not only means making friends but also finding out more about myself.”

Ararat’s Boldly Bulldog Participant of the Year Jaylen Stephens first heard about the program through her brother and her teachers encouraged her to apply.

“I initially joined the Bulldogs’ youth leadership project to further my leadership skills,” she said.

“Reflecting on my time with the program, I realised how much I’ve gained – from developing leadership skills, building confidence in myself and improving my public speaking.

“It was great to get to know the group and meet people I wouldn’t normally get the chance to talk to.

“I recommend that my peers join the leadership program as you gain skills that you’ll continue to use for the rest of your life.”

Dr Harrison said strong communities relied on community leaders.

“Young people are the future of our community, and we want to engage with them over the next few years to create a better future for our municipality,” he said.