Current students, Caitlin Benjamin (Y11) and Sarah Rylands (Y11), recently graduated from the Western Bulldogs Youth Leadership Project.
Inspired by a school-visit from a Western Bulldogs Community Foundation representative last year, Caitlin and Sarah were eager to take part in the project to expand on their leadership and communication skills while making a positive impact on the local community.
After successfully progressing through the interview stage, Caitlin and Sarah begun their own social impact project to address the rising rates of youth homelessness in Ballarat, which they titled Where Are You Sleeping Tonight? – The Safe Sleep Project. Together, they raised $600 for the Berry Street Foundation and are looking to run further fundraisers and community events in local schools.
“My favourite part of the program was meeting like-minded young people who were just as interested in making a positive difference in the community as I am,” said Caitin. “I realised the extent of my true potential and I found it inspiring to learn about what others are doing in this space when attending the partner’s events and interacting with people who have incorporated helping others into their career in all kinds of ways.”
After graduating from the program, Caitlin and Sarah progressed to the next stage, Bark For Youth, a youth advisory board for the community foundation. They collaborated on and presented projects which address topics that are relevant to young people in the community, including mental health, social inclusion, gender equality and environment sustainability. These projects will be showcased at the Youth Fest in the West exhibition, taking place on 18 August 2023.
Their involvement saw them invited to the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation annual partner event as representatives of the youth segment, where Sarah spoke as a panel member about her experiences in the programs. She was interviewed by panelist, Michael Rowland from ABC News Breakfast, and spoke of how these experiences have left a lasting impact on the person she is today.
Outside of her work with the foundation, this year, Sarah has raised over $1,000 for the Cancer Council and accumulated over 100 volunteer lifesaving hours.
“The opportunity to learn leadership skills such as empathy, enthusiasm, patience, determination and connection to country in an educational environment has allowed me to see my own potential,” said Sarah. “Since beginning my journey with the foundation, I’ve met some incredibly inspiring people and excelled in my own work with fundraising and volunteering. They’ve guided me to take initiative and formulate my own identity, breaking through barriers that would have otherwise held me back.”
“Being a representative at the event was a privilege,” said Caitlin. “We got to network with key foundation members, including CEO, Gaye Hamilton, and learn more about how the foundation has had a meaningful impact on so many people’s lives. We’re both very thankful for the opportunities the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation provided us.”
Clarendon is proud of its students who continue to demonstrate community spirit and a desire to help others, whether that be within the Clarendon, local or wider communities. We look forward to seeing what Caitlin and Sarah do next.