The Rotary Club of Blacktown City, Inc. hosts an annual Eagles RAPS Awards event. They present Certificates of Achievement to the outstanding young people who have not only beaten the challenges of life but have gone back to studying and are on their way to attaining their HSC. It is something that recently, in their young lives, would have been an impossibility and highlights young people who, through circumstances that may have been out of their control, have gone ahead and shown that they can still gain an education.
In late 1997, Eagles RAPS was formed by local community members in response to youth suicide in the Blacktown area of NSW. These people were determined to make a difference and set out incorporating a charity with the aim of setting up a service where young people could come to seek assistance. Although none of the members were trained in youth work, they believed that they could help the young people by seeking the right professional help to address their issues.
In 1999, with only $48.15 in the bank, we voted to establish a youth centre at Doonside known as ERYC’s (Eagles RAPS Youth Centre). Initially, this was a drop-in recreational centre and referral service for young people needing assistance until, in 2001, a couple of young lads came to us wanting to complete their Year 10 education. No mainstream schools in the area would accept them, so we went looking for another avenue and discovered OTEN-TAFE (distance education branch at TAFE).
These two young men were the beginnings of what is now a very successful education program that has branched into HSC and vocational courses such as retail, information technology, children services, community services, aged care services, and accounting. In the past 13 years, approximately 2,000 young people have studied through Eagles RAPS Inc at ERYC’s.
The young people who attend Eagles RAPS have not been able to attend mainstream schooling for various reasons. For many of these, Eagles RAPS has been their only chance of education and a chance to gain skills needed to succeed in life. All young people are individually case-managed to address barriers and issues in their lives and are supported by qualified staff and volunteers. We network with other services in the area to provide holistic support to our young participants.
Our programmes and services for the future are to expand our services to meet the needs of the ever-growing number of young people who are finding the teenage years increasingly difficult. In the future, we would like to expand both geographically and expand the content to better meet the needs and new challenges that young people face in a rapidly changing world.
Further information: https://www.eaglesraps.org/.