Last night Australian Catholic University held yet another wonderful end of semester celebration for the Clemente Fitzroy program. There were 11 students who took on the most recent unit, one student who completed the Clemente program and Clemente alumni who just this week completed a bachelor degree!
Completing the four units of study in the Clemente program not only provides the students access to a bachelor degree at ACU, but more importantly it gives them the support, life skills, confidence and hope that they have the ability to overcome their personal battles and achieve anything they set their mind to.
During the evening we heard from a range of speakers including Netty Horton, CEO of CatholicCare; Tiffany Pantano, ACU’s Clemente Coordinator; Gerard Koe, CatholicCare’s Clemente Coordinator; and Peter Howard, Director of Clemente Australia.
‘CatholicCare and ACU and all of us are involved in a program that is transformational, for people to realise new opportunities,’ said Peter, as he talked about the program as well as the unintended benefits it provides.
Two students couldn’t make it to the event last night, as they had made a trip up to Canberra together and have become good friends. ‘They did not know each other before they started Clemente, and this is what CatholicCare and ACU and our other partners are about – bringing people together!’ said Peter enthusiastically.
Throughout the night we also heard from others involved in the program, including Matt Walton who is CatholicCare’s Volunteer Coordinator, the Clemente learning partners, and a range of students from past and present.
What I found to be one of the most moving, heartfelt and truly inspiring parts of the night was when three students sat on a panel and shared their stories with us. They opened up, talking about the vulnerability, the setbacks and the challenges they faced on their journey. Clemente wasn’t easy for some, and yet they have made it through to the other end - a testament to their strength and resilience.
‘Clemente gave me a new beginning. And I will always be so grateful for that. It taught me to look at the world instead of looking at my own problems, which was wonderful. It changed me... It gave me the confidence to try again.’ – a Clemente student.
The evening was completed with delicious food, drinks, and vegan desserts which were provided by Mylk & Maple - a business run by a past Clemente student.
‘At the end of the day, it isn’t about passing or failing that matters. Rather how one is able to push oneself and believe in oneself despite the numerous obstacles and challenges.’
– Gerard Koe, Clemente Coordinator at CatholicCare.
CatholicCare is grateful to the Noel and Carmel O'Brien Foundation for their support of the Clemente Fitzroy program.