Wanganui Park Secondary College students bond with veterans

By Madeleine Caccianiga

Questions were directed to war veterans yesterday for Shepparton RSL’s ‘‘I Wish I’d Asked’’ program, aimed at reducing the high levels of loneliness and depression experienced among seniors and youth.

Wanganui Park Secondary College students have spent the past three weeks visiting the RSL and Tarcoola Village speaking with the veterans and bonding over stories from the past.

School wellbeing leader Vanessa Sleeth said the class of 35 students were enjoying the step back in time while getting to know the veterans.

‘‘It’s a real-life learning experience for the students, but it’s a sharing experience for the veterans,’’ Ms Sleeth said.

With the veterans bringing in photos and medals to share with the students, Ms Sleeth said connections had been formed between the two generations.

‘‘The students have heard about the war and know about Anzac Day and they have been respectful, but it may not show any real meaning or significance to them, but this will change that,’’ she said.

Shepparton South Rotary Club past president David Earle said the program would run as a pilot in Shepparton with students, before Rotary worked to roll it out to other communities where it could be embedded in the curriculum.

‘‘The program involves young people engaging with senior citizens to learn about their lives and hear their stories,’’ Mr Earle said.

Feeling that the program had made a difference, Year 10 student Jack Smith said he looked up to all veterans.

‘‘It’s been a really good experience, learning about what they went through because it’s quite different to the opportunities we have been given,’’ Jack said.

The students will continue with the program for another two weeks.