A program at University of New England is giving Indigenous youth an insight into university education.
The Youth Leadership Camp program is part of the Oorala Aboriginal Centre's Schools and Community program and engages facilitators including Dean Widders, Anthony Green and Bruce Dennison who attended the most recent Camp as Indigenous mentors.
The camps, in their fourth year, are an introduction to university life, personal development and offer a range of life skills, as well as health, wellbeing, education and Aboriginal cultural awareness.
This week the Oorala Schools and Community Programs team spent three days running the comprehensive camp for 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys in Years 8-10.
Most of the participants are from the New England region yet some travel from as far afield as Gunnedah and Sydney for the experience.
"I tell you it's been a hard couple of days, especially the 21 burpeys and those sprints," Participant, Maurice Kelly, from Armidale said.
"But the best has been the new boys I met and the mad laughs. We all pulled together and supported each other to push ourselves."
The boys participated in a wide range of topics within the university campus such as the importance of leadership, a sports science degree experience, a session on the practicalities of nursing, and a fun interactive workshop of a theatre studies.
Another Armidale boy, Oscar Ryan commented: "I really liked learning about nursing and what it takes to become a nurse and some of the procedures they go through."
This camp is designed to provide an opportunity for students to develop important values and skills such as developing a sound training practices, focus and discipline, as well as, experience of team building and team work.
Uncle Colin Ahoy, the UNE Elder in Residence, was present during the camp.
"I encourage the boys to embrace the opportunities presented to them at this camp, to have a lot of fun and to meet students from other schools," Mr Ahoy.
Lynda Lynch, who is the camp co-ordinator, began working on the program in 2016.
It began with the introduction of a boys camp, which was quickly followed by a girls camp and now Oorala runs four camps annually, two for senior and two for junior high school aged students.
"Dean Widders was there at the beginning of the camps (after) looking at The Armidale Express online and finding a lot of information about wayward youth in Armidale," Mrs Lynch said.
"He has come back and given back to his community.
"We have students who are enrolling at Oorala UNE as a result of this program.
"We want to inspire them towards a bright future and give them the confidence to believe that they can achieve a degree at university," she said.
These camps are funded under a UNE HEPPP (Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program) funding project.