School student named this year’s Chifley Young Woman of the Year

Article by: Isabell Petrinic | Mt Druitt-St Marys Standard

THE generous nature of Woodcroft schoolgirl Lauren Barrientos has been recognised at the 2017 Coral McClean Awards breakfast, which celebrates the women who do so much to build up and help others in the community.

Lauren has spent the past eight months volunteering one day a week as a homework tutor at Mt Druitt Ethnic Communities Agency (MECA).

It is for this work that the 16-year-old was awarded the 2017 Chifley Young Woman of the Year award by Chifley federal Labor MP Ed Husic last Thursday, in front of almost 100 people at the Mt Druitt TAFE Create training restaurant.

“I’m really proud of myself,” Lauren, who tutors maths and English, said.

Her love of volunteering began in church.

“I volunteered in sixth grade, singing in retirement homes, as part of a Change the World Club (through Awana ministries) in Canada,” she said.

“I became aware of MECA through govolunteer.com.

“Recently, I went to Lismore with (Churches of Christ, Doonside), that’s where the floods are.

“I was helping them recover from all the damage the water had done to their own homes.”

Coral McClean was known to many as the “mother of Mt Druitt”.

She helped establish the Mt Druitt and Area Community Legal Centre and was instrumental in the annual Reconciliation Walk.

“We’ve tried, in effect, to follow in the footsteps of Coral McLean (by holding these awards),” Mr Husic said.

Mr Husic said the entire $4000 raised at Thursday’s breakfast would go towards MECA’s Girl SKILZ program, which targets girls aged 14 to 16 who are experiencing family breakdown or who are at risk of committing a crime and being imprisoned.

MECA operations co-ordinator Holly Corpe said the nine-week Girl SKILZ program teaches young women important soft skills such as confidence, understanding of self, and the ability to reflect.

Community development worker Daniel Gobena said some participants had experienced bullying at the hands of others in the group.

“After Girl SKILZ they got to know each other … (and to) play together,” Mr Gobena said.

Ms Corpe said girls who started the program as “islands unto themselves, very defensive … (without) a lot of self agency” in time learnt how to “foster relationships” and change their “life scripting”.

She said this was important because to get a job, you need to have self esteem and the ability to set goals, which this program teaches.

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