The 2020 Victorian Rural Youth Ambassador (RYA) program received more than 60 nominations of outstanding young people from rural communities across the state. The cohort is the largest yet, with 25 young people being accepted into the program and are representative of all Victorian schools who nominated young people.
This expansion of the Victorian RYA has only been possible with the support of the Victorian State Government and the various education sectors.
With the outbreak of COVID-19 during March, and the subsequent restrictions to limit the spread of the virus, agile thinking was required to develop creative ways in which the program could continue for the year within a COVID-19 impacted environment. These actions resulted in the development of the “Rural Youth Ambassador Virtual Centre”.
The virtual centre consists of a multi-functional online platform that is currently used in New South Wales and Queensland schools, TAFE, and University settings.
Known as iSee, the Rural Youth Ambassador Virtual Centre has established a simulated real-life learning environment that includes lecture theatres, workshops spaces, display and general purpose spaces, as well as social areas such as a cafe and a social space that replicates a school playground.
The Rural Youth Ambassadors have met twice already this year to explore their work focus for 2020. Throughout the two one-day forums, the Rural Youth Ambassadors have considered a range of areas that they would like to focus on to improve the learning opportunities and provision within rural and remote communities. Their considerations have included:
- exploring how learning opportunities can be enhanced, especially with more creative and youth friendly approaches to the use of online learning;
- the need to build the capacity of teachers to utilise technology;
- developing creative ways to encourage teachers to take up teaching positions in rural communities;
- exploring ways in which the learning assessment of students is currently undertaken; and
- the mental health and wellbeing of young people in rural communities.
Over the coming months, the Rural Youth Ambassador program will continue utilising the Rural Youth Ambassador Virtual Centre as their meeting place. They will be inviting people with expertise and knowledge in their areas of focus to join them to gain a greater understanding of the areas of action they would like to focus on throughout the year.
While everyone has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in the program, and meeting virtually to get the program going, they are all very keen to meet each other in person. Hopefully we will see this opportunity in the not-too-distant future.