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ASKED to create a work of art, Jess Probst was initially hesitant.
“I’m not usually very creative,” the 17-year-old said.
But you wouldn’t know it, looking at the tree she and her peers created during the NETschool art program.
The tree is one of a number of works on display at Bendigo Library as part of the school’s annual art show.
It grew of a suggestion by Amber McConnell, another student who joined the art program for the first time this year.
Like her peers, Amber faced difficulties engaging in mainstream schooling.
The learning environment heightened the 18-year-old’s anxiety, which negatively affected her attendance.
“It’s definitely a lot more understanding,” Jess said of NETschool.
“There’s a lot of support.”
The school is comprised of seven groups of 11 students, aged between 15 – 19 years.
“Our job as NETschool mentors is to help them get through school and re-engage,” Emma Smart said.
Her group’s needs are varied – some students are preparing to finish the program, while others have just started.
Miss Smart said there were about 38 prospective students on the NETschool waiting list.
She said she had seen the positive impact the program could have on the lives of young people at risk of disengaging.
“We’ve had kids too afraid to leave their house,” Miss Smart said.
With encouragement and support, they have become diligent students.
“It would be a real shame if we didn’t have funding for this sort of thing,” Miss Smart said.
Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters sponsors the NETschool art initiative.
She highlighted its importance while viewing the exhibition on Tuesday.
“It encourages [students] to express themselves – who they are, what their passions are,” Ms Chesters said.
She said the absence of a needs-based funding model would put pressure on programs like NETschool, which is annexed by Bendigo Senior Secondary College.
“It puts programming at risk,” Ms Chesters said.