Feb 09 2014

This moving account was written by Siobhan McAvoy, who completed her student placement at Arcadia College. Siobhan (Shiv for short) is studying community services, and part of her studies required a 4-week placement. This is her story.


Shiv with Arcadia student, Sophie, Yr 11.

My reflection is of the time I have spent at my placement. I was told I would be going to be placed at Arcadia College. Arcadia College is a college specifically created for youth on the Gold Coast who have disengaged from mainstream schooling. When I originally got told this is where I would be doing my placement, I was skeptical at best that I would be able to be in an environment surrounded by youth. I am self-aware and know that I don’t always approve of youth in society, so at this point I was extremely worried that this may not be the best fit for me. However I didn’t have a clear image in my head of where I wanted to go or what section I wanted to be in. I decided that I would go along to the interview with Mandy Pembroke and see where it led. The interview went well and I really enjoyed talking to Mandy however I still had doubts as to whether I would be best suited being placed with youth. Mandy invited me to attend the training that I would need to complete prior to my placement. I attended these two days and I had the best time with the group of people there. It was a fun, entertaining and informative two days that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I really enjoyed my two days at training and was starting to look forward to Arcadia College, albeit still holding reservations.

I arrived at Arcadia College’s Palm Beach campus on October the 15th, 2013. I was extremely nervous and a little reserved for the first day. I was expecting pandemonium, attitude, and disrespect. I thought that this would be the most difficult journey I had yet to undertake. What I got however was the complete opposite. I was faced with a polite, well-mannered, fun loving, energetic, inspirational group of people who made me feel more welcomed than I could have possibly expected.

The first day I spent in the reserved shell I have when I am out of my comfort zone, but that did not last very long. The second day I was starting to get to know the kids and found that I genuinely loved each personality that I met. Arcadia College was like nothing I have ever come across in my life. The kids that attend the school want to be there, they have found a safe haven in a world where nothing is safe and that is extremely rare and I am jealous that I never had this opportunity when I grew up.

The students are encouraged by a wonderful group of team leaders who have a lot of time and respect for their students and who offer them all the time and attention they require. Ohana means “family” in Hawaiian and when walking into Arcadia College you really feel that sense of belonging and acceptance- that feeling of being at home with a family. I found that with each day, I was more excited and eager to go. To those who know me well, I am always being told that I will “be late to my own funeral” and yet each day at Arcadia I am at least 20 minutes early. This is saying a lot!

The days I attended Arcadia College have blurred altogether in one fun, exciting, unpredictable, knowledgeable and rewarding end. I found my three days a week at Arcadia College went too fast and the rest of the week went too slow and the end came too fast. In the first few days I thought that being at Arcadia College was about helping the students, but soon found out that it was about helping each other. The students at Arcadia College have taught me valuable life lessons and they probably aren’t even aware of it. The students have taught me self-acceptance, respect, individuality, to be unbiased, to be open, and to let my guard down whilst still keeping appropriate boundaries in place and most of all acceptance of other people. Every day I went into the college, I learnt something different, something valuable and priceless. If I am to reflect about my time at Arcadia College I should identify the change in the person I was then as opposed to now. Going in to this I was a little more judgemental, self-righteous, egotistical and complacent but walking out I am grateful, open-minded, respectful, tolerant, enlightened, humanistic and receptive.

When I first started my placement I didn’t know what I wanted to do after this course. Now I know that youth is where I want to work. I loved going to Arcadia College so much that I know if I weren’t moving to England, I would still go volunteer there whenever I could. The work of the Team Leaders and students is inspirational and motivating and has given me more than just insight, it has given me a purpose and a career path and for this they will always mean so much to me and I thank them.

I never would have thought I would be questioning my decision to move to England. I am sad to leave such an amazing place and feel like I am leaving my children behind. They have made me so incredibly proud of all that they are and all that they have achieved and I only spent a few months with them. The team leaders looking out for them are exceptional human beings and I am so grateful I was able to spend time around them and learn from them.

A mentor is a wise and trusted counsellor or teacher, a senior sponsor or supporter and although they are called team leaders I think they should also be called mentors because they have definitely been mine. This experience has been one of the greatest things to happen to me in my life and reflecting over my time at Arcadia College leaves me feeling fulfilled and thankful.

For more information visit http://www.arcadia.qld.edu.au

For more information about volunteering with Ohana or Arcadia College email mpembroke@ohana.org.au

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