More than the money

North Geelong Secondary College

Here’s a question every philanthropist should ask themselves: How can we ensure the money we give is worth more than its dollar value? Nicholas Adamou, Principal of North Geelong Secondary College, has an answer.

It’s worth more when it means a student can turn up to school with the right supplies. It’s worth more when having these supplies gives that kid a sense of belonging, confidence and pride. It’s worth more when just $50 tells a child that their community cares about them.

That’s the effect the FRRR Back to School Program’s $50 Target vouchers distributed by the Geelong Community Foundation, along with other philanthropic programs, have on the students of Nicholas’ school, and he sees it in their faces every day.

“These kids are so proud to come here,” he says. “When they walk through the gates with their beautiful uniforms they stand so tall and you would never know what they have or don’t have at home. I believe no child coming to school should have to feel different and these kinds of programs make sure that doesn’t happen.”

North Geelong Secondary College is located in one of the most disadvantaged areas in Victoria. The highly diverse, multicultural school is home to many students from low socio-economic backgrounds. Some are in out of home care and others are from families with generations of unemployment.

“These are families that need help with everything from putting food on the table to uniforms,” Nicholas says.

This year alone North Geelong Secondary College received more than $8000 worth of $50 Target vouchers from the Geelong Community Foundations through the national Back to School Program. In total this year the Foundation has distributed 2,040 vouchers. It is the biggest contribution the Foundation has ever made to this program in a time of significant need.

“During the pandemic these vouchers have been fantastic as we have had to support the kids more,” Nicholas says. “Sometimes it’s not just school supplies but also bathroom products or supplies for their home and we make sure they get them.

“I tell the kids, ‘If you keep coming here and trying your best we will be here for you and make sure you have anything and everything you need’. With support from organisations like the Geelong Community Foundation, schools can do that. We are so grateful.”

While Nicolas sees hardship and heartbreak nearly every day, his students’ resilience never fails to inspire him. One of the most rewarding moments of being a principal at his school, he says, is graduation night.

“You should see the smile on my face. I’m just amazed at how far these students come when they have the support. They are my heroes. This is one proud principal talking.”