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Morwell High alumni called to back Kurnai College literacy program

Students at Kurnai College are set to benefit from a $50,000 funding boost for literacy intervention following the creation of a Morwell High Alumni Giving Circle. The Traill family has kicked off the Giving Circle with a $10,000 donation and is calling on other alumni and former teachers to join this cause.

The idea of a Morwell High Alumni Giving Circle came to life when the family of Bill Traill, a popular and highly regarded teacher and Senior Master at the school from 1964 to 1974, expressed a desire to give back to a school that had been such an important part of the life of the family.

“The quality of the education foundation that both my sons Michael and Barry received provided a platform for the rest of their lives. The connection to the school and community is something fondly remembered by my wife Lola and our boys,” Mr Traill said.

While Morwell High School – now part of Kurnai College – was officially closed, past students and teachers hold strong memories of their days at the school and growing up in Latrobe Valley.

Recognising the power of education and its scope to make a greater impact for students at Kurnai College, the Traill family set up the Morwell High Alumni Giving Circle through Schools Plus – a national charity that connects donors with schools in disadvantaged communities, to support projects that improve the learning outcomes of students. Schools Plus provides an easy way for individuals to make a tax-deductible donation to their old school community.

Both Michael and Barry have had long-term careers engaged in philanthropy – Michael as founding Chief Executive of national organisation Social Ventures Australia and environmentalist Barry as Director of the Pew Charitable Trusts work in Australia – and are enthusiastic about the Giving Circle model. “Our own experience tells us about the power of Giving Circles to deliver a bigger, punchier project. It also feels good to be able to come together with old school mates after so long and contribute to the community,” said Michael Traill. 

With the support of Schools Plus, the Traill family was introduced to Kurnai College Principal Anthony Rodaughan to explore and confirm areas of need across the college.

“I was truly blown away and humbled to learn that former students who have left the Valley were interested in or thinking about giving back to their old school decades on,” Mr Rodaughan said. 

Kurnai College provides quality high school education for over 1,000 students in the Latrobe area, across three campuses: Morwell, Churchill and University. 

“As the key high school in the region, we are constantly looking for ways to ensure students are fully engaged during their six years with us. Quite quickly, teachers can identify those incoming Year 7 students at risk of learning disengagement due to their underdeveloped literacy skills. Left unrecognised, it can trigger a downward spiral that sees students disengage, lose self-confidence and set their aspirations well under their full potential, “ Mr Rodaughan said. 

Last year, the college ran a successful Literacy Intervention Pilot with selected Year 7 students using the Reading LINK – Decoding program developed by University of Queensland professor Dr Carol Christensen. The increase in student literacy capability was overwhelming, with students demonstrating strong growth in literacy skills, class confidence and improvements in understanding of classwork.

Donations from the Giving Circle will be used to accelerate the rollout of the pilot into an ongoing program across the college, enabling teachers to reach more students sooner. 

Mr Rodaughan is looking forward to welcoming all supporters of the Giving Circle back to Kurnai later this year, to be reconnected with their old community and celebrate the rollout of the program.

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