Refugees make big LEAP onto campus



Early Lorkovic is a Project Officer with the University’s LEAP Mentoring Program, which supports and inspires high school students from refugee and Pacific Islander backgrounds to pursue further education. Here she reports on their recent University Experience Day, which saw students from all over Sydney getting a taste of life as a Macquarie student.

The LEAP (Learning, Education, Aspiration, Participation) Macquarie Mentoring Program is housed within the University’s Widening Participation Unit, whose priority is to raise the numbers of higher education students from areas that are currently under-represented in the tertiary sector. LEAP Macquarie Mentoring is part of a partnership that recognises the need for ongoing support of high school students from refugee and Pacific Islander backgrounds, in order to facilitate their successful transition into higher education and other future vocations.

The mentors are Macquarie University students who volunteer a few hours each week to travel to schools, inspiring and assisting the high school students by drawing from their own personal journeys, knowledge and skills.

University Experience Day was one day of their program where the schools travelled to Macquarie and experienced first-hand the educational environment of their mentors.

The day started with a casual welcoming ceremony. Professor John Simons officially welcomed the schools to Macquarie and offered some motivational advice of his own. Two current Macquarie students then bravely got on stage to tell their stories, with some of their experiences echoing those of the high school students. They told of their struggles, their dreams and their drive to succeed – the whole room was inspired!

Many of the University’s faculties and departments showed their support by hosting individual demonstrations in the Faculty Show portion of the event. Students were encouraged to get involved, having fun while learning about the various programs the university offers.

When I think back to the day, I picture a room full of students from various high schools and from all cultures, some in uniform, some not, chatting away with smiles on their faces to Macquarie students in their red t-shirts. Later, the room was full of happy smiles, dancing and singing along to an African drumming band.

Since the event, LEAP staff have received a great deal of positive feedback about the impact of the day. Many mentors and teachers said the day was the highlight of the program for the students, where the concept of attending university was further explored. Exposing the students to university life has de-mystified a lot of their preconceived notions of higher education, opening their minds to the real possibilities that lie ahead in their future.

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