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Rio Olympians inspire indigenous students

21 October 2016

EDUCATION: Rio 2016 athletes Marianna Tolo and Brendon Reading have helped inspire young indigenous students this week as the Cathy Freeman Foundation (CFF) hosted a week long ‘Horizons’ Camp in Canberra.

15 students from Year 7-8 came together to explore the nation’s capital, travelling from four remote communities in Queensland and the Northern Territory; Palm Island (QLD), Woorabinda (QLD) Wurrumiyanga (NT) and Galiwin’ku (NT).

The Horizons Program gives secondary students a life changing opportunity to participate in an intensive personal development experience where they explore post school education and employment pathways in an Australian metropolitan city.

Basketballer and Olympic debutant, Marianna Tolo spoke to the students at the Australian Institute of Sport, sharing her story of hard work and dedication to get to Games.

“Camps like this are important in order to educate and give opportunities and experience in post school-life, which can sometimes be daunting to face,” said Tolo.

Mackay-born Tolo said she hoped that students understood that they can all contribute to society in a positive way and highlighted that it was her job as an Olympian to give back and inspire students to achieve their goals once they finish school.

“I was inspired by Cathy Freeman coming to my primary school so hopefully I can inspire others.

“After the talk, I hope that the students walked away and understood that no matter who you are, or where you come from, you can achieve your dreams.”

Brendon Reading, another Rio debutant who finished 40th in the men’s 50km race walk, also spoke to students and took them on a guided tour of the AIS.

Reading remembered the positive impact of an Olympian talking to him when he was in school.

“To be able to see what someone can achieve through hard work and dedication just spurred me on when I was growing up, and that is something I hope to pass on to the kids,” said the 27-year-old.

The Canberra native said he hoped students learnt that things don't always come easy.

“In order to get the best out of yourself you need to work hard and dedicate the time to achieve those goals.

“By finishing school and getting a proper education, you set yourself up for later in life and it’s ultimately the decisions you make now that will impact on your future successes.”

The week long trips aim to return students to school with a greater sense of self-esteem, confidence, social skills and a new sense of purpose.

CFF Chief Executive Officer, Jamie Howden explained that students are chosen and recommended by their school leadership for attending school for 90% of the term and for demonstrating positive classroom behaviour over two or more consecutive school terms.

“The Cathy Freeman Foundation Horizons Program partners and collaborates with our partner communities in rewarding Indigenous students for their education achievement,” said Howden.

“Together we provide life-changing experiences to our students to develop their self-confidence, sense of purpose and attitude towards school.

“The Australian Olympic Committee are a fantastic partner, complimenting these objectives through powerful sessions with Olympic athletes who reinforce the importance of dedication, hard-work and goal setting.”

The Horizons Program motivates students to set goals and to reach ambitious learning milestones in the Starting Block Program and what better ambassadors to promote this message than Olympians.

Ashleigh Knight

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