Youth mentorship program launches at Retford Park

Retford Park is not only preserving its past, but investing in its future through a new mentorship initiative. 

IGNITION@RETFORD PARK is a National Trust pilot program where young people work with facilitators to devise and implement their own community focused project. 

Project facilitator Wayne Deeth said the program was the first of its kind in the Southern Highlands and will build a bridge to the cultural future of Retford Park. 

“This is a way for the young adults in the Southern Highlands to connect with our shared heritage. Helping us figure out how to use Retford Park to build a bridge between the older and younger people in the Highlands,” Mr Deeth said. 

“It's about moving these young people into adulthood. Building their sense of independence, building their own project that they’re passionate about,” he said. 

The program sees six year 10 and 11 students from Bowral High School and Wollondilly Anglican College partner with mentors for a three-month structured program. 

Igniting solutions: Select students from Bowral High School and Wollondilly Anglican College are participating in a youth mentorship pilot program at Retford Park. Photo: supplied.

Igniting solutions: Select students from Bowral High School and Wollondilly Anglican College are participating in a youth mentorship pilot program at Retford Park. Photo: supplied.

In that time, the students will develop their own projects tailored to engage a younger audience with Retford Park and ultimately lead to more dynamic programming across National Trust properties. 

Bowral High School teacher Elizabeth Morthorpe said the program would also encourage the growth of students’ personal leadership skills which will be of benefit to them both inside and outside the classroom. 

“Young adults have a wonderful opportunity through this program to develop their capacity to lead themselves well, which is so important as they move into their HSC studies,” Ms Morthorpe said. 

“They will go through an entire decision-making process where they will figure out what they’re passionate about and what they need to do, how much time the need to dedicate to put it all together,” Mr Deeth said. 

Mentors will work closely with the students to support them as they create their own project in response to their inspiration at Retford Park, whether it's the art, architecture, gardens or Fairfax media history. 

The projects will be showcased at an event at Retford Park in November.

Families, friends, National Trust volunteers and the wider Southern Highlands and Wollondilly communities will be invited to celebrate the young adults’ achievements.  

“All the mentoring research shows; if you give kids a positive experience in their young adult life with community engagement, they are far more likely to be involved in later life also,” Mr Deeth said. 

The program is scheduled to run again sometime in autumn, 2019 with a new group of high school students.