Uralla Central School girl runs a Youth Frontiers project to help her fellow students

Uralla mayor Michael Pearce with his mentee, Uralla Central School student Gemma Weguelin.
Uralla mayor Michael Pearce with his mentee, Uralla Central School student Gemma Weguelin.

A passion for helping others has inspired a Uralla student to challenge her own personal growth and be nominated for a State award in the process.

Uralla Central School student Gemma Weguelin was one of five students from the school who recently completed a mentoring project through the Youth Frontiers Program.

Last Wednesday Gemma was told her project to improve the mental health of high school students had been selected from 300 nominations to be one of the NSW finalists in the Youth Mental Health category.

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

Gemma discusses her project with MP Adam Marshall at the Northern Tablelands Showcase event in Armidale.

Gemma discusses her project with MP Adam Marshall at the Northern Tablelands Showcase event in Armidale.

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.

Gemma was mentored by Uralla mayor Michael Pearce to bring her project to fruition.

Youth Frontiers New England coordinator Ashleigh Walton said Gemma had been an enthusiastic and very motivated participant in the Youth Frontiers mentoring program. 

“Her project focussed on youth mental health and she had both a short and long-term goal relating to this topic,” she said.

Firstly Gemma organised and implemented a very successful Mental Wellbeing Day which was held at Uralla Central on Monday September 11.

Students in Years 5-12 were placed into four groups and rotated through four activities designed to promote positive mental health.

These activities were: A ‘Gratitude Wall’ for students to write on sticky notes what they felt grateful for; ‘Freedom to Express’ which allowed students to explore the semicolon project and express their feelings through individual artworks; A football game run by CRL’s Craig Macleod to increase mental health through an enjoyable and popular physical activity; ‘Live ‘N Laugh’ which included multiple games with the goal of “laughter is the best medicine”.

Gemma says her long-term goal is to encourage the Department of Education to make a change to the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) curriculum. She has been a driving force behind this idea which was created by the Mental Health Committee of the 2016 Junior Parliament.

“They aim to create a healthy, accepting environment for students which breaks down stigmas and can be targeted at both boys and girls separately as needed,” said Ms Walton.

“Gemma is in the process of arranging a meeting with Adam Marshall (MP Northern Tablelands), Mark Scott (Secretary of the Department of Education), and Rob Stokes (NSW Minister for Education) to discuss possible changes to the PDHPE educational program.”

Ms Walton said both Gemma and Mr Pearce are passionate and engaged members of their community and Mr Pearce had been an incredible support for Gemma during the program.

“I would definitely recommend him to others as a mentor,” Gemma agreed.

“This has been an enlightening experience, I have learned a lot and I thank Michael sincerely for his patience and the 100 per cent he has given me.”