An award-winning program enabling young teenage mothers to pursue their high school education, while still caring for their babies, is appealing for wider community support.
Swinburne University of Technology’s Young Mums Program provides mothers aged 15-20 years a Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL), which is an equivalent to Year 11 and Year 12 studies.
Young Mums Convenor, Louise Schilling, said the program was formed in 2007 at Swinburne’s Croydon campus, to offer an alternative path for young mothers to continue their studies.
“We developed a VCAL for young mums designed for their needs. We also knew that bonding and attachment were important and with that, we decided that the babies could be in the classroom.”
Young mother, Jemma, fell pregnant at 15. After feeling the isolation of being home bound with a baby, she decided to take control of her life and joined the program.
“It’s helped me get where I want to be, like finishing my year 12, whilst having a child,” she said.
Empowered by her decision to continue her education, Jemma said that being involved in the program offers hope for her little baby boy and their future.
“It means I can get somewhere in life and I can give him the future I want to give him,” she said.
Mrs Schilling, virtually a mother figure to the girls, is very passionate about the program and sees first hand the value it brings to the mothers.
“The future of the program really depends on the support of the community. It’s so important to provide a pathway for young mums to further their education and gain employment,” Mrs Schilling said.
“I really want them to better themselves…just being the best person they can be, and they do that and they amaze me every day.”
Mrs Schilling is appealing for local businesses and the local community to support the life-changing program.
The classes cover numeracy, literacy, personal development and work-related skills. The program also offers a Certificate II in Retail Services.
In 2009, the Young Mums Program won the Diversity@Work and NAPCAN Safe Communities awards for its success in helping young mothers train and enter the workforce. It was also acknowledged as the Victorian Training Initiative of the Year at the 2009 Victorian Training Awards.
If you would like to support this program, visit https://alumni.swin.edu.au/donations/young-mums