Learning Journeys: How our Old Boys help run this Incredible Program

Over 20 OTGs helped to run the Year 8 Learning Journeys program over the period of June 17-28. This year is the first year the program has been conducted over a fortnight as opposed to a week, with half of the year level participating in either week.

Learning Journeys is a camp run by Tim Bence and Trinity’s Personal Development faculty, but according to Andrew Harris (OTG 2014, whom we featured as one of our Humans of Old Trinity last year), it’s a lot more than that. “We take Year 8s up to Toolangi for a week, as well as doing some stuff at Bulleen,” he says. “We run various activities for them which help them learn how to work as a team and learn how to place themselves in group and social dynamics, as well as focus on themselves and the personal journeys that they’re on.”

The program is made up of three different streams: Challenge, Group and Self. “The Challenge stream is at Bulleen, and it’s more physical – doing a commando course as well as a lot of other activities. It also touches on the mental side and learning how to cope with it,” says Harris, who has taken part in the program as Year 8, a Year 11 leader, and now four times as an OTG leader. “That leads into the Group stream which is more focused on your place in a social group, and focuses on ideas of trust in the group. Then the Self stream is more personal and potentially emotional. The boys focus on their personal journeys; where they’ve come from where they’re going, reflecting on hardships they’ve had and mistakes they’ve made, and also looking forward to the future.”

The Group and Self Streams at Toolangi

The significance of the program, as a means for allowing young men to acknowledge and express their emotions, is becoming “more and more relevant”, according to Harris. “As young men, we are brought up in a society where a lot of these issues are taboo,” he says. “A lot of our job as Old Boys is to help start some of those conversations with the boys and acknowledge that a lot of boys have things they’re struggling with. With this program, we’re hopefully doing our little part in society and helping break down some of those stigmas.”

Matt Corney (OTG 2014) agrees, and has found through his experience of the program in Year 8, Year 11 and five times as an OTG, that it takes place at the perfect time in a young man’s development. “Year 8 is a time where kids are going through a lot of change, be it physical such as puberty, or social and emotional going through high school and trying to fit in with social circles,” he says. “They’re trying to find a bit of direction in their life, and I think a program like this really allows kids to step outside of the school and specific academic learning, and into learning about themselves, how to deal with life situations, how to create lasting relationships not only with their peers but also the Year 11s and OTGs.”

The role of OTGs in the Learning Journeys is a critical one, and the OTGA is incredibly proud of the continued involvement of Old Boys in the program. “Because of the nature of a lot of the activities, they aren’t run by teachers; boys often have their guards up around teachers,” Harris says. “The role of the Old Boys is to facilitate these activities for the Year 8s, but to be able to do it in a way where a real friendship and a real relationship can form. All the Old Boys have been through that camp and had those experiences, so now they’re passing on the culture they’ve experienced at school.”

But the OTGs themselves also have much to gain from being involved in the program. “It’s a great way for me to keep in touch with Trinity and connect with the OTG community, and also just to give back to the school,” Corney says. “The other thing is that the program allows OTGs to grow and learn. Not only are they learning leadership skills by running the activities, they’re also able to participate in other aspects of the program. There are so many things that I can take out of the program now which I may not have in Year 8.”

The Challenge Stream at Bulleen

For many Old Boys, the impact of the program may still be felt, even years after they first experienced it. “I did my Learning Journeys nine years ago and I still remember it,” Harris says. “One of the most memorable things for me is the ability to reflect on something in the past and be able to apologise or to admit a regret. Being able to get things off your chest and move on. I think that’s a really powerful tool.”

“I go up there every year and I’m allowed to show the boys the person I am, and that they don’t have to fill a certain stereotype about what a young man is,” Harris says. “It shows that we’re all individual and we’re all on our own journey.”

Learning Journeys plays a fundamentally formative role in fostering the culture of the Trinity community – one which cares deeply about the holistic growth of each boy as an individual. The conversations which are started by Learning Journeys are of great significance in our current-day society, especially to young men who may be going through challenges, be they emotional, social or personal. The program holds a very special place in the hearts of many boys who have been through it, generations of whom return to the school to help pass on the lessons they learned from it. “To see the boys that I taught in Yr 8 go through the elder year levels of high school, and see them come back to Learning Journeys as Year 11s and OTGs is fantastic,” Corney says. “To see how they’ve developed and how much the program meant to them. To see some of them say, ‘Look, I didn’t really grasp everything in Year 8, however upon reflection I realised that I was using a lot of the values that I was taught at Learning Journeys. It allowed me to grow into who I am.’”