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Studies in engagement.

For Sarah Hemphill, cultivating resilience & building qualities of leadership amongst her students is a major passion.

Jul 12, 2019


Words: Zoe Hyde
Images: Zoe Hyde

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For Sarah Hemphill, cultivating resilience and building qualities of leadership amongst her students at Kambrya College, Berwick, has been a major passion for a long time now. For three years Sarah has been at the forefront of the development of Kambrya’s Darrabi program, alongside assistant principal Martin McDonald.

“Darrabi means ‘awaken’ in the local Woiwurrung language. The choice of the name reflects the College’s belief that disengaged students are not bad students, they are simply students for whom an interest in learning needs to be ‘re-awakened’ to enable them to achieve success at school”, Sarah explains.

Both the Darrabi and the new Growing Independent and Resilient Leaders (GIRLs) programs are focussed on creating independence, communication and personal growth among the students, enabling them to find their inner strength and become natural leaders.

The programs were created in response to students who were becoming disconnected at school at around the age of 15. The Darrabi program, created in 2010 by Ben Forbes, is a place for male students to focus their attention towards leadership, resilience and respectful relationships, helping them stay in the school system and build a positive pathway for the future. Gee Michalik founded GIRLs this year. It assists female students who are struggling with their identity and emotions, encouraging them and demonstrating that they are actually capable beyond their own currently perceived limits.

Both programs are offered to students who are disengaged, who may be struggling academically, have poor attendance and can be disruptive in the classroom. The students are interviewed to determine what they want, where they want to go in life, and where they feel they need the most help and assistance.

Unfortunately, if it wasn’t for programs such as Darrabi and GIRLs, these students could be lost in the system, suspended or ultimately expelled.

The desired outcome is to prepare these students for their lives ahead and to give them an opportunity to flourish, outcomes that become much more difficult if they were excluded from the education system entirely. The programs were pioneered to re-engage the students and to equip them with skill sets to deal with confrontation, manage their emotions, learn time management, and above all, to build the potential for positive leadership.

As a student offered, “Darrabi has changed me for the better already, but there is still a long journey ahead. I’m excited to see what else is in store for us and I can’t wait to see the end result”.

Similar to her students, Sarah has spent the last two years working on her physical and emotional wellbeing. Training at Zoe Hyde Transformations has forced Sarah out of her own comfort zone and has challenged her beliefs and habits. The skills learnt have enabled her to better lead the students.

Gippslandia #11 - Feature. - Studies in engagement.

Sarah Hemphill of Kambrya College, Berwick.

Having to deal with her own struggles has better allowed Sarah to relate to her students and help them recognise that failure can be a catalyst to drive our success.

By understanding the importance of values and how they can dictate our behaviour, Sarah has been able to teach the students the importance of aligning themselves with those who share similar, positive values.

In chatting about the program, one of the students mentioned, “I think I’m going to achieve a sense of self-acceptance, self-respect, and learn how to better support others”.

The types of activities included in Darrabi and GIRLs are overnight hikes, fundraising campaigns, working bees and personal development sessions. All are designed to push the students to get out of their comfort zones, develop skills and to feel a sense of accomplishment.

As one Darrabi student confirmed, “The hike pushed me to my limits, and afterwards, I felt like I could achieve anything”.

Leadership takes many forms. Sarah and the teachers at Kambrya College demonstrate the potential of a lucky group of students who are no longer labelled as the ‘bad kids’ and have instead been given an opportunity to excel. Let’s see more schools awaken an excitement for education again.

Zoe, a Drouin-based author and trainer, has recently published her first book, Uncage The Lion Within, and supports others as they seek to improve themselves at Zoe Hyde Transformations.


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Gippslandia #11 - Feature. - Studies in engagement.

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