Passions spur Unity College students to do great things for their communities

Walking 41 kilometres, making a blanket, teaching a class - each has been part of this year's curriculum for these year nines.

This story was originally published behind Murray Bridge News’ paywall. Paywalled stories are unlocked four weeks after publication. Can’t wait that long? Subscribe here.

Walking 41 kilometres or making a blanket from old T-shirts – these activities might seem unusual, but each was part of this year’s curriculum for students at Unity College.

As part of their studies, year nines at the Murray Bridge college are challenged to find causes they are passionate about, research them and take action to make a difference.

That was why Emily Kerr stepped out her front door at Wynarka a fortnight ago and put one foot in front of the other for the next eight hours, walking 41 kilometres to Tailem Bend.

She had originally planned to stage a one-off netball game as a fundraiser for Special Olympics SA, which runs sporting competitions for people who live with intellectual disabilities.

COVID forced her to think again.

Her grandmother gave her the idea she carried out on a drizzly Saturday and accompanied her every step of the way, helping her net $1600 for her cause.

“It wasn’t actually that bad,” she said.

“I started at 6am and finished at two in the afternoon.

“Then I jumped in the river because my legs were so sore, even though it was freezing.”

Another student, Sienna Daniell, looked at “fast fashion” and the environmental cost of keeping up with the latest trends.

She confessed to having been a bit of a fashionista, but said her shopping habits were now changing.

“I honestly had no idea before I looked into it,” she said.

“(The fashion industry) is the second biggest polluter in the world after oil – it’s really damaging to the environment.

“A lot of water goes into making it ... the dye, washing it, growing cotton, it all adds up.”

As a way of reclaiming the lost value of all those old clothes in the back of people’s cupboards, then, she asked people to donate T-shirts which she stitched into a blanket.

It took way longer than she had expected – which, again, made her think about the time it took to make pieces of clothing people might wear a few times and discard.

Ethan Watkins looked into water security in the Third World, and raised $667 for Fight for the Forgotten, an organisation which builds wells and water pumps for people living in the Congolese rainforest.

Painting a picture and auctioning it off was Madison Jaensch’s way of helping the yellow-footed rock wallaby, an endangered species.

Brodie Maloney focused on mental health in sport and led a year six class through a half-hour session intended the clear their minds: planking, star jumps, dodge ball and other mini games.

Teacher Kate Vanderbom said the passion projects helped students connect with and give back to their communities, and to develop skills they would need later in life.

Photo of Sienna Daniell, Ethan Watkins and Brodie Maloney with Madison Jaensch and Emily Kerr: Peri Strathearn.

Give a gift subscription