Opportunities to understand and engage

A strong emphasis on community and social service has been an integral feature of an MLC education since the College was founded in 1882.

What does service learning at MLC look like in 2017? We spoke to students and staff across all four schools to find out.

“Being involved in service learning programs at MLC has helped me become aware of issues that I might not face, but that others around the world definitely do,” explains Year 8 student, Nicola Anderson.

“Contributing to the Eat Up program and to Home Group Social Service this year has showed me how I can make a difference and also helped me learn about compassion,” she says.

Eat Up and Home Group Social Service are two of the many service learning opportunities offered to Years 7 and 8 students at MLC.

Eat Up aims to reduce the number of schoolchildren trying to make it through the day on an empty stomach by providing lunches to schools across Melbourne and regional Victoria. This year, MLC’s Year 8 students have made thousands of school lunches using sandwich fillings, glad wrap and other supplies donated by the MLC community.
Meanwhile, the JSS Home Group Social Service program sees each Year 7 and 8 Home Group select a local charity or organisation to support via fundraising, awareness-raising and action. Guided by their Home Group Social Service captains, students this year have raised funds and awareness by holding stalls, collecting goods, washing cars and even a movie night.

“These programs are woven throughout the JSS experience and are designed to give students a chance to make a meaningful impact,” explains Head of Junior Secondary School (JSS), Melissa Lange.

Melissa recognises the challenges for young people as their awareness of contemporary social issues grows.
“Students can feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s problems, but with deliberate support and guidance they can make a tangible difference to many of them,” she says.

International Forum is another JSS service learning program that fosters both the development of global citizenship as well as an international perspective.

“In this program we look at issues impacting the global community and students decide in class groups how they will respond. The learning is very powerful because students select an issue themselves – such as homelessness or environmental degradation – and work collaboratively to make an impact,” says Melissa.

“In International Forum our Home Group chose to raise awareness about the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef,” explains Nicola. “We devised and ran a treasure hunt for Year 2 students and also raised money for the Australian Marine Life Conservation Society.”

A service learning highlight in 2017 has been MLC’s new Red Earth Cape York Cultural Tour, which provides participating Years 7 and 8 students with a unique perspective on Indigenous and First Peoples and the challenges they face not just in Australia, but around the world.

“Being on this tour has been a highlight of my time at MLC,” says Year 8 student, Olivia Porter. “One of the best parts was partnering with members of a remote Indigenous community to repair fences, build a rose garden and re-plant a veggie patch. Working alongside Indigenous children and elders and seeing how happy they were when we’d finished was amazing.”

As well as new perspectives, Olivia and Nicola both say MLC’s service learning programs have helped them develop initiative and collaboration – valuable 21st century skills.

“At MLC we recognise our students are enormously privileged, and with that comes great responsibility,” adds Melissa. “Through our programs, students see the challenges faced by communities locally and overseas, and learn how they can practically make a difference to others.”