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Jack Manning Bancroft Aims for the top

Jack Manning Bancroft has been named the NSW Young Australian of the Year for his work establishing the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience. Angus Street caught up with the Balmain local to learn more about the program he founded as a university student reports Angus Street in Balmain Village Voice on 7 December 2009.
Jack Manning Bancroft Aims for the top

NSW Young Australian of the Year Jack Manning Bancroft. Photo: Craig Wilson

Q What is the AIME program all about?

A We match university student volunteers with indigenous high school pupils, in a one-on-one mentoring relationship, to help improve their educational aspirations and opportunities, which in turn will increase the school completion and university admission rates.

Q Why did you decide to start up the program?

A Being on an indigenous scholarship at university came with a lot of responsibilities. I had people from different faculties constantly saying that they had scholarships for indigenous people but couldn’t fill them. At 17 I was trying to pass my first exam and was faced with the knowledge that kids were dropping out before Year 9 and were never going to fill these scholarships.

Q How did it all begin?

A After recognising that some sort of intervention was needed to get people through those tough years and into university we initiated our first program at Alex Park School in Redfern. They told us we could run the program on Fridays because no kids turned up on that day. So we turned up with a bunch of bright-eyed uni students wanting to make a change and it was like walking into a ghetto. But there was a moment when you could really see the students engage as they worked with another young person. I just thought there was something in this. We ended up getting a 40 per cent increase in attendance and the school went back to having a five-day-a-week curriculum.

Q Are you surprised by these results and how well the program has been accepted?

A The real results are yet to come, the big success will be when we get a strong batch of kids in Year 9, who complete the full four-year program. Teaching other people to run the AIME program has probably delayed the impact we can have in the short term, but long term we have pretty high expectations and want to get university admission rates for kids involved in the program up to about 30 per cent.

Q Was there a time when you doubted it would get up and running?

A Getting started was okay. But there were a few times when I wondered if it would keep going or am I going to burn out running this thing. But every time you get frustrated in a meeting, or things get hard or people can’t see the bigger picture, you just come back to the kids and think: if I’m taking one for the team then it’s all worth it in the end. Impossible is nothing.