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Siarn White: Youth Off the Streets: Westfield Local Heroes 2019

Chef cooks up opportunities for troubled kids

Passionate. Dedicated. Engaged

When Siarn White was head chef at a busy restaurant, she enjoyed training the apprentices.

She then went to university and became a high school teacher for eight years, developing a passion for helping troubled teens. Next came a move into youth work.

That’s how Siarn arrived at Youth Off the Streets, first as a volunteer and now as a teacher at Eden College, where she has introduced creative classes to give young people a second chance at education and fulfilment.

One innovation is a hospitality qualification, which is aimed at increasing her students’ chances of finding employment.

Siarn strongly believes in the value of Vocational Education and Training (VET), especially for young people who are at risk.

“The qualification will help them to develop the teamwork, communication and employability skills that employers are seeking.”

She is humbled to be voted a Westfield Local Hero. “To quote the movie Notting Hill, ‘it’s surreal but nice’. It’s a humbling experience to know that I’m just going about my daily job, and the community thinks it is worthy of a vote. I am making a difference for the kids that I teach.”

Not only did Siarn navigate complicated practical and regularity requirements to introduce the hospitality course, but she has also been instrumental in setting up a school café to help her teach practical skills.

The aim is to give students real-life skills in a real-life environment to boost their confidence and empower them.

“Education is one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of disadvantage,” says Siarn.

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation.

Youth Off the Streets will use its grant to fund fifteen participants in the Eden College Opportunities and Options program, including vocational training in hospitality. It will also supply appropriate attire for work experience.

“We are teaching these kids confidence, teamwork, organisation, being independent and taking initiative,” says Siarn.

“These are transferable skills, and it’s about giving them better opportunities in life.”

__For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here. __

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