When SWD caught up with students from Lake Illawarra High School's Winds of Change program, six months after it finished, we learned that it is making a significant difference in the lives of those students.
This is most likely because Winds of Change creates a safe space for engagement and teamwork. The program is intentionally designed to make conversation with volunteers a seamless experience so that students don’t even realise they’re doing it.
Skye, a once very shy student from Lake Illawarra High School, reflected on her experiences when we chatted with her in May.
Skye enjoyed the program and she discovered a passion--sailing! When asked what she enjoyed most about the program, Skye said, “You get to connect with the people you’re working with. You’re working together as a team and it’s like a family on the boat."
Interacting with SWD’s volunteers in a safe space, week-in week-out, while gaining new skills helps students to grow in confidence. For Skye, this was pivotal and it also shaped her outlook.
“Communicating and seeing things from a teacher’s perspective, instead of just your student perspective, is one of the big things that’s changed for me since Winds of Change,” she says.
When we mention sailing on Sundays, Skye's eyes light up.
“I love being on the water so much, on the open water, seeing everything from a unique perspective, including the actual land itself.”
This confidence is spilling over into other parts of her life.
Now, Skye’s choosing to race with SWD in the CYCA Winter Series races early on Sunday mornings, catching public transport all the way from the Illawarra.
Unlike Winds of Change, where Skye got to know the volunteers on board, the Sunday racing crews change week to week and are seasoned sailors and adults with disabilities.
While meeting new people would once have been daunting, Skye is now confident.
“You have to talk to the crew members and you have to get to know them," she says, of Sunday racing, "because you’re with them constantly and working with them. That helps you in the outside world, opening up."
“It really brings you out of your shell and it helps me get better marks in school.”
In the last few months, Skye has taken up leadership roles in her school, helping other less engaged students to become engaged through proactively inviting them to join groups and get involved in extra-curricular activities.
There's a lot more to Skye's story and we will share a longer version, with even more insights and impacts, in coming weeks.
Skye (centre) sandwiched between long-standing SWD crew members on the day they came second in their division