Between a group of ukulele players and team Awesome Newcastle, the crowd at The Edwards last night were quite the vivacious bunch. We were accommodated fantastically, as per usual. We enjoyed the fresh evening and the soon-to-be summer vibes in The Edwards front bar.
Five new board members were on board last night including Clay Frost from NIB, David Sawicki from Third Wave Ideas , rad reoccurring guest board member, Don Magin and two fine men from our venue, Alan Parry and Zach Scholtz. Then we met our finalists who came from all over the region to share their awesome ideas.
Our first finalist of the evening was Madelyn Smith who works as a student support officer at Toronto High School. She told us about her project SistaSpeak. SistaSpeak is a 10-week program for indigenous girls. It incorporates community members coming in and sharing their stories and culture with the students as well as cultural craft and resilience based-activities. Her aim is to create a sense on belonging and community within the school while celebrating the Aboriginal culture and focusing on the individual strengths of each student involved.
Next up we had Vangie Hilyard, who started an initiative called From Us To You. People donate their formal wear to her, and she gives it to high school students for free. This allows teens to attend their high school formal without financial stress and pressure. The project started on a whim in July when she asked for donations on on her Facebook page. Hours later, total strangers were dropping off donations to her home. Within a month she had close to five hundred dresses, shoes, bags, jewellery, suits, shirts and ties.
Our final finalist for the evening was Vicki Anschau. She came from Waratah West Public School to share the benefits of getting kids outdoors and her plans to create an outdoor mud kitchen. She talked about how mud play can boost immune systems and provide a range of learning opportunities. Through her project, students will practice the skills of sharing, organising, safety, co-operating, negotiating, communicating and taking ownership of their space.
We were excited to meet people from such different parts of the region tell us about their great ideas, all which are making a positive impacts in the community. But, alas, there can only be one winner, and last night was no exception. We waited, the judges debated, and right around 7 pm a decision was reached.
Guest board member David Sawicki gave a lovely speech and then awarded Vangie $1,000 cold hard cash. She will use the money to purchase vacuum seal bags for storing the leftover formal stock so they’re fresh and ready for next year’s event and also to purchase men’s shirts and shoes as these were highly sought after and the least common type of donations. Excitingly, Vangie is now considering how she could bring this concept to other high schools around Australia.
Congratulations to Vangie for delivering a great pitch and creating an awesome concept in the community, and best of luck to all our finalists in the future. Remember that applications never expire, and it’s never too soon to start thinking about your next Awesome Newcastle application!