By Kyra Gillespie

Pakenham students are seeking ways to close the gap on social isolation as part of an innovative Youth For Causes initiative.

Launched by the YMCA, Youth for Causes is a program that teaches secondary students about social enterprises – business ideas that are developed and delivered for community benefit.

Local independent secondary school, Education Centre Gippsland (ECG) College, was successfully accepted into the 2018 program, with their team identifying social isolation as a key challenge facing young people.

“We decided to hold a gaming tournament to help get teenagers socialising with each other,” said ECG College student, Izabel Bianchi.

“We thought of this idea as most of us are really into gaming, but we have noticed the negative impact it can have on our friends and their mental health. We wanted to get teenagers out of the house, bring them together and make it easy for them to meet people with similar interests.”

The event saw teenagers from the school and beyond descend on the Chapel to take on an Xbox challenge of the team’s favourite Call of Duty titles. The participants competed in rounds until the final heat was taken out by Jake Hartley-Monckton of Kooweerup Secondary, who was awarded a BenQ monitor for his win.

A big focus of the event was beyond the screens, uniting the student organisers, tournament participants and local business community around fundraising for cancer charities. A raffle was launched in conjunction with the event, with tickets sales wrapping up at the end of the term.

“We wanted to raise money for cancer as we have all experienced cancer in one way or another,” Izabel said.

“We hope that one day cancer won’t be a thing anymore.”

ECG College Head of School, Jamie Robertson, said that the Youth for Causes program was just one example of how the students had reached out to the community this year with the number of fundraisers initiated by the students across ECG now approaching double figures.

“Our students have a whole lot of heart,” Mr Robertson said. “Part of that comes from learning in an independent secondary school where giving back to the community is part of our DNA.  But honestly, that giving nature also comes from the kids themselves.

They want to provide leadership, make positive change and develop initiatives that benefit the people around them.

“It has been really wonderful to see how local organisations have supported the students in their efforts, by providing prizes for raffles, ingredients for bake sale treats and lending equipment. It shows our students that there is support out there for you if you are working towards something great.”

ECG College thanks contributors: Madman, BenQ, World Wide Gaming, Couch Warriors, Cardinia Youth Services, YMCA, Game City (Perth), Coles, Bunnings and Pakenham Race Club.

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