Walcha Central School boy runs a Youth Frontiers project to help our community elders

old soul: Walcha Central School student Thomas Micallef with a report on the project, inspired by his grandmother's experience, to involve the residents of the Apsley Riverview Hostel in the lives of his fellow students.

old soul: Walcha Central School student Thomas Micallef with a report on the project, inspired by his grandmother's experience, to involve the residents of the Apsley Riverview Hostel in the lives of his fellow students.

An understanding of the tyranny of isolation often faced by those in aged care has inspired a Walcha student to challenge his own personal growth and be nominated for a State award in the process.

Walcha Central School student Thomas Micallef was one of five students from the school who recently completed a mentoring project through the Youth Frontiers Program.

Yesterday Thomas was told his project to bring the residents of the Apsley Riverview Hostel and his fellow students closer had been selected from 300 nominations to be one of the NSW finalists in the Community Harmony category.

The State award winners will be announced at an event in Parliament House in Sydney later this month which Thomas will attend with his family.

Youth Frontiers is a mentoring program funded by YWCA NSW and the Department of Family and Community Services. The program provides young people (mentees) in Years 8 or 9 with an opportunity to build life skills and self-confidence by working collaboratively with an adult mentor to undertake a project which makes a positive difference within the local community.

Thomas and Eric talk mentoring

Thomas was mentored by Walcha mayor Eric Noakes to bring his project to fruition. Being extremely passionate about reducing the isolation of the elderly,  Thomas coordinated a group of students to visit the Riverview Hostel and  participate in activities with elderly residents. Thomas has spoken with principal Mark Hall to continue the program in 2018. He is also encouraging Walcha Central School to extend invitations of events to elderly residents so that they have the opportunity to be welcomed as active participants in the school community.

Thomas said he and his peers have enjoyed spending time with elderly residents and have challenged them to word games and physical challenges such as putt-putt golf, bowling, and ping pong games. He also formed an inspiring bond with his mentor, Eric Noakes, but he was surprised by the nomination.

“I was actually really shocked,” he said.

“I was expecting one of the other students to get it.”