Three generations supported by unique Brisbane school
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Three generations supported by unique Brisbane school

by Freya Lucas

November 28, 2022

For grandmother Sandy Downes, Carinity Education Southside is many things – a workplace, a haven of learning for daughter Jasper, and an introduction to education and care for grandson Carson. More than that, though, it serves as a second home and family. 


When she walks through the gates of the school each morning, she says she feels like she is getting a warm hug. 


Her first engagement with the school was when Jasper began attending in Year 9, after experiencing challenges in government schooling. She turned to Carinity, an all girls special assistance school, seeking support. 


With a strong desire to support her daughter’s schooling, Sandy started volunteering at Southside to provide a little extra support to Jasper.


“Jasper wasn’t actually going to school much for a while so I thought if I volunteer, it will encourage her to attend. When I started volunteering in the kitchen, she started coming to school more and now she attends all the time,” Sandy said.


“Having mum at Southside makes me want to come to school,” Jasper confirmed, sharing that maths and science are her favourite subjects, and that she enjoys connecting with the school’s youth workers and her fellow students. 


Sandy, a mother of five, was ready to re-join the workforce, and soon her volunteering turned into paid work. 


“I have noticed such a big difference with Jasper, she is just so happy. Now that I am here working at the school, Jasper is quite proud of me. She has made some lovely friends. Before she wouldn’t talk to people – now she is much more outgoing,” she said.


Principal Leann Faint said that Sandy is a favourite amongst staff and students.


“When Sandy began volunteering in our kitchen, Jasper became more engaged with her learning, her peers and the staff. Just having her mum there to touch base with made a real difference,” Leann said.


As well as strengthening the relationship with her daughter, Sandy finds it very fulfilling to help students develop skills in the kitchen and watch them blossom.


“I feel really good when I go home, that just for a brief moment I have helped them forget what was worrying them. Lots of the girls now call me Mum too,” Sandy said.


When Jasper fell pregnant and later gave birth to her baby, the unique schooling environment at Carinity Education Southside meant she was able to balance raising a child with finishing her studies. Since he was six weeks old, Carson has been attending an early learning centre for babies and toddlers located at the school.


“It is so good; I get to come and visit my baby any time of the day and give him a cuddle,” Jasper said.


Sandy and Jasper find comfort knowing Carson is happy, safe and being cared for by the “wonderful” staff at the early learning centre, operated by Search Light Inc. and funded by two Australian Government agencies.


“He gets looked after by the best people, he is so happy to come here, he loves the people that look after him. He has the greatest day and I get to visit too,” Sandy said.


“The creche has allowed Jasper to connect with other mums. She has been invited to baby showers and birthday parties.”


As well as schooling, Carinity supports young people to learn parenting skills, as well as supplying essentials to allow them to focus on their learning. 


“If you need something they will help you get it. It’s being a part of a community,” Sandy explained. 


“All the school has supported Jasper; she was still coming to classes while pregnant. They are very inclusive of the baby,” Sandy said.


“The people at the school are just beautiful. Not only do they inspire the students to better themselves, but they also inspire the staff. They are really encouraging. They inspire me to be better.”


Learn more about Carinity here

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