Talking leadership: BHS year 11s William, Chloe, and Tahlia chat to alum Bernadette Purton and business manager Lesley Thorpe. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

High’s alumni to reconnect and give back

May 21, 2021 BY

BALLARAT High School is offering former students the opportunity to reconnect with their alma mater, and make a contribution.

A participant of the not-for-profit Ourschool program, BHS is in the process of creating an alumni network of former pupils who will be ongoing resources and mentors for students as they navigate potential career pathways, and further study options.

A series of BHS alumni career pathways sessions are already underway as part of the developing program. Last week, 1998 graduate Bernadette Purton, a health, safety and environmental manager in construction, presented to the year 11 student leadership group about her career.

“The discussion was all about leadership. I was a leader at school, and when I look back on my life, leadership has continued to be a big part of who I am,” she said.

“I would have loved this at school, and it would have been an amazing program for me, so I’m excited for the students to have people to talk to about what it means to be a leader.

“Coming back to school is great because it was the most amazing time; the foundation of my friendships. I’ve started to reflect on my experiences, what I took from school, and the pathway I’ve taken in my own life.”

Within the Ourschool program, network members will be invited to provide work experience opportunities to BHS students, and financially support the school where possible, building a sense of community and school pride for both current and former pupils.

The initiative is the first of its kind, and BHS alumni program coordinator Eliza Hopkinson, also a former Ballarat High student, is employed through Ourschool to build the thriving community.

“We have so many fantastic students that went to Ballarat High School that would love to reconnect, but haven’t had the opportunity to, so this is a way to do that,” she said.

“They get really excited, and some come back for tours. One former student recently said to me that it’s been her life goal to come back and speak at the school, so it’s nice to be able to make that happen.

“We’re going to host a careers panel later in the year, and we look forward to welcoming more cool people back to school to present on their expert areas, and the educational pathways they took.”

Ourschool CEO Caroline Milburn said the state secondary system hasn’t traditionally organised formal alumni networks.

“That means public school students rarely get a sense of a bigger, supportive community they can feel part of,” she said.

“Many public high school alumni love their old schools. We want to make it easy for public high school alumni to give back to their school in meaningful ways.”

Twenty-three other state secondary schools are taking part across Australia.