Program changing lives, community

WHAT started out as a pilot program targeting a few wayward high school students will now become a permanent fixture that is expected to change the face of Griffith.

A combined initiative between Griffith and Wade High Schools, the re-engagement program, has helped around 60 students get back on track.

Yesterday at Griffith High School, principal Charlie Cochrane announced that the Re-engagement centre was here to stay.

"The old Kalinda site has been signed over for us to use and we have been told that while we have the rec centre we have the use of the site," he said.

"The pilot has now finished and we are working to get things up and running for next year.

"What is great is that the whole community has thrown their support behind us to support these kids so they can become good citizens of Griffith."

Mr Cochrane said while the pilot program hadn't been all plain sailing, it had been extremely rewarding seeing the positive results.

"We've got 35 non-government organisations on board. TAFE has been tremendous and everyone else working with us have provided all sorts of support. As someone said recently, we've created a very nice monster," he said.

"It's been one step forward and about 55 back, but in the end it's working.

"Crime rates during school hours have reduced, there are less school students walking around the town and there is less graffiti.

"The main thing is that we won't send our kids out unless they are work ready, that's our guarantee."

Griffith Mayor Cr John Dal Broi was at the school yesterday to show his full support.

"This is an absolutely fantastic program," Cr Dal Broi said. "They came to me about four months ago for some moral support and I was only too happy to give it.

"For years and years Griffith City Council has been looking at how we can reduce graffiti and we have in the past offered a reward, now we have decided to go this way.

"If we can help keep these young people off the street, we are 100 per cent behind them."

The aim of the centre is to help get the students engaged with the community and get them local jobs so they can give back to Griffith.

"We are very keen to improve community well-being."

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