Growing up in the southern Queensland town of Goondiwindi — population around 6000 — Toni Clarence knows how daunting it can be to relocate from the country to the big city.
That’s why sixteen soon-to-be Year 12 students from Goondiwindi State High School were in good hands recently when they spent a week visiting the Gold Coast and Brisbane to gain invaluable insight into life at Griffith University.
Toni spent her childhood in Goondiwindi before moving to the Gold Coast to study a Bachelor of Teaching at Griffith.
Having also completed a Bachelor of Education at the University and then teaching at various Queensland state schools, she returned to Goondiwindi in 1998 and later completed a Masters in Guidance and Counselling.
As Goondiwindi SHS’s Guidance Officer, Toni was the ideal choice to bring the excited students from the country to the coast.
“I remember how daunting it was when I left Goondiwindi to come to university,” says Toni.
“For many of these students, this is their first major trip away from home and it’s obvious what an impact it is making.”
The visit was made possible by the Vern Kleinschmidt Community Trust. The late Mr Kleinschmidt was a much loved local veterinarian and the trust is part of a generous legacy benefiting the Goondiwindi community.
Furthermore, Mr Kleinmschmidt’s nephew is long-time Griffith University supporter and successful Queensland businessman, Mr Bill Heck.
After discussions between the school, trust executors and Mr Heck, the Griffith-Goondiwindi program was born.
The students were accommodated on campus during their stay, which also included leadership sessions, specific course activities, trips to Movie World and Australian Outback Spectacular, and an evening at the theatre to see the hit musical Matilda.
“This program is important not simply because it shows the students what is available in terms of their tertiary study options. It also provides them with a lifestyle experience,” says Toni.
“They are making connections with people, familiarising themselves with places and opportunities, and getting to know the pathways that are open to them.”
“This experience has broadened them so quickly and you can see how much they are drawing from it.
“And for those who do decide on tertiary study, they now have a clearer idea of what to expect and will be more confident and comfortable when the time comes to make their decision.”