In the last edition of Loreto Networker we profiled the place of primary education in our Loreto educational landscape. Here, the rich senior studies pathway, the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning program (VCAL), offered at Loreto College Ballarat is highlighted.
At the beginning of 2020 our first project was to refresh VCAL. We wanted to put our Loreto stamp on this unique program. What our students developed encapsulated the essence of a Loreto education; VCAL: Access to Excellence – Life Ready. Our VCAL students have a broad range of talents and skills and the program we developed shuns the “one size fits all” model. The school is proudly diverse and believes that we are creating something very special by acknowledging and celebrating our diversity. The students involved are told very early in our program that if they have come to “take things easy” they are in the wrong place. We thrive on interacting with each other, creating, planning, implementing, and making connections with our community.
These connections are developed at school, across our wider regional community and in our world. When Mary Ward said “women in time to come will to do much,” she was looking directly at us.
Image Above: Loreto College Ballarat VCAL students.
The VCAL program is rigorous and, like any curriculum, there are outcomes to achieve. The pursuit of academia is often seen as the ultimate in terms of success, however, more and more the development of soft skills and emotional intelligence are highly desired and regarded by academic institutions and employers. The ability to work cooperatively in a team and communicate effectively are skills honed in the VCAL learning environment. Work placements, events planning, activities and running our own coffee van are some of the ways these skills are developed. Our students are capable of anything and everything.
VCAL is a program forever evolving, changing and adapting to meet the needs of the students, however, it is also about meeting the needs of the community. Mother Gonzaga Barry said ‘All around you are possibilities for doing good and making the world richer for your having lived in it.’ The possibilities are endless and our students know that as people of Loreto we have a responsibility to work towards a common good. Our Community Connections program works with local primary schools, aged care homes and people living in assisted living communities in Ballarat. Covid-19 did not stop us and in fact we doubled down on our efforts by assisting the local soup van, making blankets for the homeless and creating care packages for our friends at the aged care hostels.
Not content with their local community efforts, our students have been working to sell face masks that have been made by the Loreto Sisters and friends in Timor-Leste. If you would like to help us support women and communities in Timor-Leste you can purchase a mask here: https://pastpupils.loreto.vic.edu.au/#facemasks
As we conclude our VCAL year, it is heartening to experience the strength and solidarity of the Loreto network in the knowledge that funds generated by selling these face masks will contribute to ongoing community development projects in Gari-uai. After an excellent and challenging year, our VCAL students are certainly life ready!
Author: Felicity Knobel, Director of Faith and Mission, Loreto College Ballarat
Feature Image: Students of Loreto College Ballarat enjoying the VCAL program