Cobram Secondary College Year 11 student Ellie Jones is a young woman making the most of her opportunities.
She is determined to be a leader, not only at her school, but also her community.
Miss Jones, 16, has been selected to be part of the Rural Youth Ambassadors Program for this year.
The program selects 20 senior students from across rural Victoria and ambassadors attend four conferences in Melbourne during the year, acting s a voice for rural students.
The conferences involve students actively developing and planning initiatives to enhance and improve rural people’s aspirations, learning opportunities and career pathways.
Despite her heavy academic workload managing two VCE subjects as a Year 11 student, Miss Jones was not deterred from applying after seeing a notice go up on the school’s Compass website.
The enthusiastic student had her first taste of sharing her ideas with the group of like-minded rural students at the initial conference in April and will attend her second one this week.
‘‘It was really interesting and we were given a great opportunity to say what we wanted to say,’’ Miss Jones said.
‘‘There was nothing scripted about it which was really good and it was fascinating because we had all experienced similar issues throughout our rural areas.’’
There is often a misconception rural students are disadvantaged compared to metropolitan students, but Miss Jones was hopeful rural students could move away from that particular school of thought.
‘‘A lot of what was discussed was around the mindset of rural students being disadvantaged and that we are never going to have a chance,’’ she said.
‘‘It was actually really interesting to hear that we actually have, in many cases, the same opportunities — it’s just about reaching outside of that mindset.
‘‘That is our main aim, to change that thinking so everybody can see us as being not just ‘those rural kids’.’’
Miss Jones recognises the different types of challenges rural students face in comparison to their city counterparts, but encouraged rural students to look past that if they wanted to get the best out the education system and themselves.
‘‘We are to a degree disadvantaged but I think it is becoming a bit of an excuse rather than looking for a way to solve the issue,’’ she said.
Miss Jones said it was easy to overlook the strengths of being a rural student and touched on some of the clear benefits that helped rural students thrive.
‘‘We have a much more personalised experience at school because we know everyone. The teachers know us and they can help work with us to improve our strengths,’’ she said.
‘‘In saying that, it is hard to judge because I have never been in the position of going to a major regional school.’’
From talking to Miss Jones, it is clear she has an aura of maturity about her, suggesting she has all the tools to be one of our most influential leaders of tomorrow.
‘‘I always try and do my best to be a leader,’’ Miss Jones said.
‘‘If I think there is a problem I’m not going to sit back and let it be, I’m going to speak up and make sure everybody knows that it is an issue and that it needs to change.’’
Although Miss Jones’ dreams lie in Canberra, they are away from Parliament House.
‘‘My dream is to attend Australian National University in Canberra to do a double degree in international relations and development studies,’’ she said.
‘‘I really want to become a manager of community projects either in Third World nations or in Aboriginal communities within Australia trying to improve health outcomes.’’
As a result of her work with the Rural Youth Ambassadors Program, Miss Jones has been appointed to the Education and Training Department’s education state advisory group.
‘‘I was very excited to be added to that group. It has similar principles as Rural Youth except we work much more closely with the education department and we look at things like school culture and literacy and numeracy,’’ Miss Jones said.
‘‘Those types of things are what the department wanted our advice on.’’