Flipping the Script

Woodleigh has offered traineeships through the AFL SportsReady Traineeship Program for many years. AFL SportsReady is a national not-for-profit that has launched the careers of thousands of young people in fields as diverse as it, media, visual arts and sport. In 2022 all three of our trainees were past students.

We had a chat to Harrison Robertson (2021) Anika McClean (2020), and Aidan Bolch (2021) – to hear about their experience.

When I tell people that I work at the school I just graduated from, the common response is “At the school you just graduated from?! I would never go back to my school. I got out of there as quick as I could!” But at Woodleigh, the attitude of recent graduates is often completely different. My Woodleigh friends visit as often as they can for Musicales, markets, media nights and the like.

When Adam Liddiard walked into the Year 12 Media class in 2021 and told us all about the Marketing Traineeship in the Community Office, I knew then and there what my 2022 was going to look like. A traineeship at the school would be an opportunity to further develop my video editing and photography skills, and to catchup on all that was lost in two years of COVID lockdowns.

At the end of Year 12 I applied. Who would have thought? I got the role, and I’ve been working as a staff member in the Community Office all year.

I’m often asked what the transition from student to staff has been. If I’m honest, the transition was strange for a couple of weeks, but I quickly settled in. But the truth is, Woodleigh staff and teachers are different, and by the time you’ve reached Year 12, you’ve developed a strong connection, much more like colleagues than teacher-student. While there are clear professional boundaries, the teachers here treat you as a growing human. Teachers would always be there for a chat at lunchtime, for a hike in the mountains and especially for me, someone to vent to. It’s been really fun and interesting to see a different side of the school, especially the junior campuses, which are completely new to me; the opportunities that the junior kids get make me jealous!

During the year, I have gone from a photography newbie and editing novice, to creating pictures and videos that I am truly proud of. This year I’ve not only developed my technical skills, but also my character and my passions. I’ve become particularly passionate about First Nations storytelling, self-determination, and rights, helped in no small part by Woodleigh’s events held during NAIDOC Week of truth telling; stories of Invasion, Stolen Generations and the continued challenges and silencing of our oldest living culture.

My Year 13 has nearly come to an end. Looking back, it has almost gone as quickly as Year 12! Although I will miss Woodleigh, I am excited for the future. In 2023, I plan on studying a Bachelor of IT (Networks and Cyber Security) doubled with a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications, Indigenous and Cultural Studies) at Monash University.

Harrison Robertson 2021

After finishing my VCE at Woodleigh in 2020, I began my first year at university in a Psychological Science degree at Deakin University. Coming off the tail-end of a Covid-filled VCE, having online uni classes was not ideal. That first year of uni in 2021 was an uncertain and confusing time for me. I questioned what I really wanted to study, and if university was even for me.

It was during this time that I got the opportunity to showcase my VCE Studio Arts final at the Monash Gallery of Art. I received the news that I had been shortlisted for the TopShots exhibition, and shortly after received a phone call to let me know I had been chosen as the winner! I was ecstatic.

Fatefully, later that afternoon I picked up a call from Gina Bolch. She asked me what my plans were for the following year, and invited me to apply for the Art Technician Traineeship at Woodleigh. Suddenly, my plans for the year ahead became a lot more certain. It seemed as though everything had happened for a reason. I made the decision to defer my Psychology degree with little hesitation. I would consider this day a pivotal turning point in my life.

Being at Woodleigh this year as a Year 14 student has reminded me of my love of learning art. Working with the teachers that once taught me has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I would consider these key people as some of the most influential people and mentors in my life. This year has inspired me to pursue a more creative path. I’ve pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, and I hope to continue to push myself in further jobs, study, and other experiences.

My advice to any recent Year 12 graduates would be that it’s okay to not know where you want to be, what career you want to pursue, and what kind of person you want to become. The best thing you can do is say yes to the opportunities that come your way, because you never know what it might lead to.

Anika McClean 2020

I heard about the AFL Sport Traineeship through Gina Bolch; she’s my mum, and careers advisor for the school. She suggested I apply for the traineeship to gain experience in the teaching environment and take a break before heading into university.

I’m interested in a potential career in PE teaching, and I thought there would be no better way than being involved and gaining the experience straight out of school.

I had plans of studying either exercise and sport science, or PE teaching. My plans of going to university changed when I finished Year 12 in 2021 and took on the traineeship. I felt as though the traineeship would provide me with the information and experiences that I may not be able to have otherwise.

This year, I’ve learned that so much happens behind the scenes for things to happen in a school. As a student, sometimes you don’t realise how much work and effort goes into the things that happen every day. Whether is it the actual planning of a class, or the setting up of equipment for the class, students can be quick to overlook the work that staff do for things to be able to run.

What really stood out the most to me this year is how much everyone has been affected by COVID. Things are still far from normal due to the past few years we have lost.

Next year I will be heading off to university and study PE teaching and Indonesian, with lots of travelling in between hopefully.

The advice that I would give to current Year 12s is pursue your passions and take a break if needed. Don’t do something that you won’t enjoy and rush to make a decision you will later regret.

Aidan Bolch 2021