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Unique youth scholarships open pathways to education and a future


Ralph Salera, Regional Manager of North West Metro Youth Services in Melbourne, chats with young people about the Hugh D.T. Williamson Foundation.

By LERISSE SMITH

Excitement is building for a special group of young people who will soon celebrate a major milestone in life, giving them the opportunity to create a trajectory of success for their future.


The Salvation Army’s North/West Metro Youth Services, Melbourne, has invited 18 of its young people to Sunshine’s Youth Hub on 6 February to receive their formal scholarship certificate from the Hugh D.T. Williamson Foundation. The foundation has gifted funding to support their educational and employment pursuits.


It has been a dream come true for the recipients who were unable to fund their future aspirations. “It’s life changing for the young people,” said Ralph Salera, Regional Manager of North/West Metro Youth Services.


The Hugh D.T. Williamson scholarships embody what Hugh, pictured above, wanted for young people.

“The Hugh D.T. Williamson scholarships provide an amazing opportunity for our young people, empowering them to pursue education without financial barriers. By alleviating the burden of education costs, it enables them to participate in their education so they can make lasting contributions to their communities and beyond.


“Beyond the financial support, it’s also all about the opportunity to participate without barriers, boosting confidence, unlocking potential and creating a trajectory of success for these individuals. It's not just about education; it's about offering opportunities to young people to celebrate education and allow young people to thrive.”


Special relationship

The scholarships embody what Hugh D.T. Williamson wanted for young people – to empower young minds, nurture their potential, and inspire them to achieve their goals.

The special and long-standing partnership between The Salvation Army Westcare/Youth Services and the Hugh D.T. Williamson Foundation was forged back in 2002, with the organisation engaging in financial support for youths and the community. Predating Australia One in 2018 (when The Salvation Army became one territory in Australia), it was involved with Westcare.


The Foundation has built a special and close relationship with the Youth Services in the West and Sunshine with more than 80 young people benefitting from scholarships totalling $80,000 in the past four years.


The upcoming occasion to celebrate the formal presentation of the most recent scholarships will not only be a highlight for the scholarship recipients, but also for the Trustees of the Foundation who are passionate about supporting them.

“The current Trustees of the Hugh D.T. Williamson Foundation are very pleased to continue the support of the Foundation for the work of The Salvation Army,” said Stephen Newton, The Chair of the Trustees of the Foundation.


A special plaque recognising this enduring partnership features in the Hub’s training room.

“Support that began as the result of the keen involvement of Hugh Williamson himself – an honorary colonel, a recipient of the Army’s highest award, a past Red Shield Appeal chairman, and a significant donor and benefactor for the Army’s programs – including making it possible for Army personnel to attend programs at the Mt Eliza Business School.


“We now follow his lead, in making it possible for those wishing to pursue further study to do so through the Hugh D.T. Williamson scholarships.”


A key part of the event will be the opportunity for the scholarship recipients to speak about their future plans. “It creates a memory for the young person and acknowledges what they're doing is actually important and valuable,” Ralph said.


All workers across the North/West Metro Youth Services team nominated people for the scholarships. They considered five key areas such as their needs and future aspirations. The Chair of the Trustees of the Foundation, Stephen Newton, who works closely with Youth Services, then collaborated with Ralph and Chloe Lynch, program manager of North/West Metro, to allocate the funds.


Dreams achieved

Many success stories have arisen from previous scholarship funding. Past recipients have achieved their dreams – from becoming nurses, completing youth work and architecture courses, through to pursuing the business sector and in one case, becoming a doctor. One young person traversed a journey from being a massage therapist to a travel agent, and then qualified as a veterinarian.


Material and practical support aid have been provided through the Foundation funding too, which offers flexibility depending on the person’s needs. The aid can range from computer equipment, childcare, driving lessons, travel tickets, work boots and study desks to pre-course fee payments. Some youths have also received their third cycle of scholarship funds to complete their courses.


One of the great benefits of the scholarships has been young people being able to make a decision on their career path. “It is certainly something that we drive,” Ralph said. “We have seen young people take all different journeys, and we're seeing people just know what they want and get it. It has been great.”


Inclusion

There has been no judgment or discrimination around any young person that comes into the Youth Services no matter their background, history or life challenges. The team want them to feel that they can tackle any course or just sustain basic employment if other circumstances were impacting them such as homelessness, family violence or mental health issues – and to always feel supported by staff who advocate for them.


“If a young person has a desire to be in education, we will move mountains to ensure they have access to it,” Ralph said. “The last thing we want is for them to feel they are different than any other student . . . They are as equal as any other student going into that space. There’s no barrier such as ‘you can't do that’ because you can't afford it. There's no judgment.


The original training room at Sunshine Hub is now known as the Hugh Williamson Education Centre.

“If a young person wants to study to be an astronaut, then let’s get you into a course to be an astronaut. It’s that attitude that develops young minds and develops the opportunity for young people to study, that is a key passion of the Foundation. The focus is on opportunity for education and the attitude that, if we invest in young people and their education, then we're all going to be better off for it.”


In recognition and appreciation of the Foundation’s ongoing support of The Salvation Army and Youth Services program, a special plaque has been erected outside the original training room at Sunshine Hub which is now known as the ‘Hugh Williamson Education Centre’. A table donated by the Founding Chair of the Trustees of the Foundation, Denis Tricks, also acknowledges its four founding members so both staff and the public know of the Foundation’s highly valued commitment and support. “They are a strong key partner in the relationship with The Salvation Army –and we want to keep it forever,” he said.


“They have always been a strong advocate of what we do. We’ve been able to support a normal journey of a young person who's trying to explore their world and what they want from their life – and that's been the beautiful part of Hugh Williamson.”

 

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