Alternative schoolies for Tatachilla students

By Kendrea Rhodes

Alternative Schoolies sounds oddly contradictory. “Schoolies” itself seems to describe a behaviour considered by mainstream society as already alternative. However, there are a number of year 12 students marking this significant transition in a very different way to other school leavers.

Alternative Schoolies sounds oddly contradictory. “Schoolies” itself seems to describe a behaviour considered by mainstream society as already alternative.  However, there are a number of year 12 students marking this significant transition in a very different way to other school leavers. This ‘rite of passage’ was celebrated by students from Tatachilla Lutheran College, McLaren Vale, South Australia, on a farm – with some hard yakka, sturdy boots and lots of love. While others were heading off to party in Victor Harbour or even Queensland, these students chose a different path; that of service and helping others.

They were joined by the Youth Group from St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Shepparton, Victoria. Together they all mucked in with the dirty jobs; scrubbing mud off farm equipment, mending pipes, cleaning out the silos, sweeping debris and dust, mowing lawns and washing all and sundry. The farm is owned by Mr Alan Strang and was ravaged by drought for years, then the irony hit when the heavens opened in March this year, causing massive flood damage.  Mr Strang said that the teenagers were a pleasure; good and friendly kids who worked hard.

Sarah Lush, Youth Worker at Tatachilla College, said that it’s been fantastic watching the students working together, helping out and chatting while they clean mud off a tractor, really getting to know people from different walks of life. And the St Paul’s Youth Group certainly had different stories to tell, as many of them are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, The Republic of Burundi and The Republic of South Sudan.

This positive partnership was born in consultation with Glenice Hartwich, Program Officer for LCA International Mission, who connected and supported the two groups on this journey. After all their hard work, they were rewarded with social activities, a BBQ and live music from the Christian band, Sons of Korah. It seems the weekend was so successful, most are talking about next year’s gathering!

Taylah Gregory said, ‘some of the stories the refugees told us were really sad and confronting but it was inspiring to see them getting on with life and making the most of things.’

Sarah Lush said that she also wanted the Tatachilla students to see a different side to refugees, other than what is portrayed in the media; and therefore, make up their own minds. She also said that the experience was so powerful, when it came to saying goodbye, neither the Tatachilla students, nor the St Pauls youth, wanted the time to end.

‘It was … a positive experience for all … I just wanted people to share life … and live love’, said Sarah.

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