Meet Rohit, one of 12 Buckets' Young Ambassadors for 2017.
Rohit has become an integral and valued member of the 12 Buckets community, and we're rapt that, instead of saying goodbye, we have have the privilege of continuing to walk alongside and partner with him as he heads off to high school.
As he graduates from primary school, he is a markedly different young man than the nervous boy who first walked into the 12 Buckets room in 2014.
Rohit says that before he "met" 12 Buckets, he was "very shy and always got bullied". Although he enjoyed learning, he found his problems difficult to handle. "It was overwhelming and I felt like I couldn't do it. I even told Mum I didn't want to go to school."
After being referred to the 12 Buckets program, Rohit initially worked with professional photographers, Beck and Joe (who also do some great work with Camera Story), who taught him how to use a camera to tell a story.
He was then introduced to his current mentor, Danny, who, with a little help from son, John, has thoroughly enjoyed passing on his wood-working skills to Rohit. Together, they have constructed boxes and model planes, as well as an outdoor table and chairs, a scarecrow and garden frames to support snow peas and dragon fruit growing in the school garden. In the spirit of generosity and contribution, much of this has been gifted to the school for the benefit of the entire school community.
Rohit has also participated in the University Aspirations Program in partnership with Curtin University, and represented his school in the Debating Program, which saw students present their arguments at the Federal Court of Australia.
"Through 12 Buckets, I have experienced things that other students haven't. I'm really lucky to have someone by my side to work with me to help me with my problems and to teach me new things."
How does he feel about school now?
"I have a great time in school. This year, I've been a student councillor, I have lots of friends, and I feel like I am part of a big family with my school and 12 Buckets."
Deputy Principal, Mrs Kylie Jones says, "Rohit has found his people. He's had the opportunity to have his say and be heard, and know he's in a safe and caring environment."
Rohit's mother, Marion, says her son "is calmer and more settled in himself. He has developed into a confident young man who can talk to anyone."
Marion was so struck by the impact of her son's involvement, she signed up to become a mentor, and is now using her own knowledge and experience as a gardener to teach children how to grow their own food.
Rohit is emphatic about the effect of his connection to 12 Buckets.
"12 Buckets has changed my life. It has helped me to be who I really am ... I'm a lot more confident within myself and I feel like I am supposed to be here, where I am."
Looking Towards the Future
Now, as Young Ambassador, Rohit will join Indiana in representing 12 Buckets at several events and speaking engagements, be offered ongoing leadership training and receive a scholarship fund for extra-curricular educational activities.
Rohit's generous spirit and leadership potential are already evident to those around him. Not only has he been a student councillor this year, but he often steps into an unofficial peer mentoring role, offering comfort and encouragement to younger students. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rohit was awarded the Citizenship Award at his primary school graduation last week.
When asked how he felt about becoming a Young Ambassador, he confessed to being nervous, but then gave a huge smile. "It will be good to still be connected to 12 Buckets."
His mum adds he is "very aware of the opportunities given to him through 12 Buckets and is excited to give something back."
Mrs Jones says she is "incredibly in awe of this young man. He has so much talent and now he has the confidence and more self-assurance. He will be the amazing young man we have always seen".
Rohit has been accepted into a specialist drama program for high school, and dreams of one day attending the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). He'd also like to develop his technology skills and learn to build robots.
"I can't wait for the future!"