Carinity and Search Light partners in education for all ages
Having been a student, an employee, and now the mother of a current student, Justine Hopkins has a unique perspective of Carinity Education Southside.
After previously disengaging from school and experiencing domestic violence, Justine enrolled at the unique all-girls school in Brisbane to complete Year 12 as a mature age student.
For the majority of Southside Education’s 25-year history, a purpose-built childcare service, overseen by Search Light Inc., has operated on the school grounds. It has enabled young mothers such as Justine to access free, quality childcare while continuing their education.
Justine graduated from Year 12 at Southside in 2007, then studied at TAFE and worked in hospitality and youth work. She believes her achievements would not have been possible if not for the Search Light Early Learning Centre, located at the school at Sunnybank.
“I dropped out of school when I was a teenager. Finishing school was not even on the cards but I wanted something in my life. One of my siblings was attending Southside school at the time and she was telling me that I could enrol there – and I could take my kids too,” Justine said.
“Being a young adult with young children, studying without the support of the creche would have been hard for me. When the school said they could facilitate the care of my little ones at the creche, I had access to the children being minded and me getting an education.”
Each year, up to 10 per cent of Carinity Education Southside’s student population are young mothers. Jacqui Clevens said the care her children received at the early learning centre while she was studying was pivotal to her graduating from school.
“I went to Southside before becoming a young mum, so I knew they had great supportive teachers and staff. Having the creche there to look after my babies after they were born was just amazing. It was another reason that I was able to graduate,” Jacqui said.
As well as caring for babies and toddlers, Search Light Early Learning Centre also offers support programs for Southside students who are young mums. This includes parenting strategies; clinic nurse; first aid; health and nutrition advice; music and reading for children; and water safety and swimming lessons.
Sue Chapman from Search Light Inc. said the early learning centre is funded by two Australian Government agencies, the Child Care Community Fund and the Families and Communities Program.
“All members of the Search Light Inc. management committee are volunteers and our long-standing partnership with Carinity Education Southside has supported many young women to complete their secondary education while pregnant and parenting,” Sue said.
“We are always very grateful for our partnership with Carinity as without their support we would not be able to offer many of the additional support services that we do.”
Carinity Education Southside Principal, Leann Faint, paid tribute to the Search Light Early Learning Centre volunteers who established and continue to operate the early learning centre which has supported hundreds of young mothers.
“Each year young women who never imagined they could achieve at school graduate from Southside with their young child or children by her side. This could not be possible without Search Light. They are valued partners who journey with students as they aspire to and achieve their educational dreams,” Leann said.
“The Search Light committee is run by a group of professional women – some working, some retired – who saw a need and found a practical solution to help young women with babies and toddlers. They are deeply committed and passionate about education for these girls and improving the prospects for both mums and babies.
“With all Search Light does for Southside, they are now offering an annual bursary for one of our graduating Year 12 students, to support them in further education. This is done in honour of one of Search Light’s founding members, Jenny Medland, a woman dedicated to supporting and seeking opportunities for young women in need.”