Reflections from our Chair

23 October 2020 / Supporters, Team

Dennis Laundy, Chair of Youth Opportunities’ board, was introduced to the organisation like so many of our great supporters, through our inspirational and passionate founder, Peter Marshman OAM.

“My recollection is I met Peter Marshman as a result of our wives working together in the school tuck shop. Peter was always passionate about Youth Opportunities and what the organisation was doing.

“The simplicity & profoundness of the message as well as the origins of the program struck a chord with me.

“I thought if the opportunity presented itself, I would like to assist in some small way. That opportunity presented itself when I was approached to join the board as Treasurer about seven years ago and, after doing my due diligence, I was really happy to say yes. I took on the role of Chair about two and a half years ago.”

How have you seen Youth Opportunities grow?

“The growth in the number of students being supported in both metro Adelaide, and now more so in regional areas, has been fantastic to see. I know in the South East, with the support of the Community Development Board in the region, numbers have grown steadily, as has the generous support of the community to ensure we can continue to make programs in the area sustainable. This growth in community support has transcended across the state and we are fast becoming one of South Australia’s most trusted and supported charities which is great to see.

“The other area of growth which has really impressed me in recent years is in our commitment to quality, and the rigor behind program and service development, delivery and evaluation. The program itself has not changed much over the years, it has certainly lasted the test of time with only modifications to the messaging to ensure it remains relevant to young people as their needs change, but our investment in continuous improvement and in outcome measurement has been met with much appreciation by those who continue to invest in us – let’s be honest, our donors, trusts and foundations and the government would not keep providing funds if the outcomes for young people were not there.

“I also think this commitment to quality and professionalism has carried forward throughout the organisation and, under the leadership of Erin and with the support of the board, it has been great to see Youth Opportunities having a strong focus on governance while still remaining agile and responsive to the changing environment, which has been incredibly important over the past year.”

Why is YO important for young people?

“The skills and values that are imparted through Youth Opportunities’ programs and services are so fundamental to any successful person in life. It is helping young people to define what success looks like to them, to take responsibility for their own lives, to build a positive mindset, to create their own plan on how they can reach their goals, and to learn how to communicate well – and these are precisely the skills that I believe all successful people have.

“It is also helping young people to build resilience – self resilience which is becoming more and more important as the challenges of unemployment and mental health increase.

“I always say that what Youth Opportunities teaches is not rocket science, you will not come out of the program with a degree, but the skills these young people are being taught, or at least reminded of, is what is going to be essential for any of them to pursue their goals in the future. It is the building blocks they need but, unfortunately for some of these kids, for a multitude of reasons, they are not being taught it anywhere else, and it is holding them back from reaching their potential and any future success.

“I believe positive people are the foundation of life – by limiting the impact of negative people on these young people’s lives and helping to see more in themselves by becoming a personal leader they will become the future leaders of South Australia.”

What are you most proud of?

“I am really proud of the increased level of support we are now able to offer. For many years we had our flagship face to face Personal Leadership Program and, obviously that was doing great things to support young people who were able to access it. But now, we are offering support to not only the young people who go through our programs, but to parents, to teachers, and of course, increasing our reach with our online program which means even more young people, wherever they are located, can utilise these great learnings without being restricted by geographical barriers. And our results, even as we have increased our service offering and our reach, have not faltered. These young people are reporting they feel better about themselves; they have the tools to succeed in life and they have goals for the future and know how to get there, which is something we should all be proud of.

“I am also very proud of how Youth Opportunities adapted to the changing environment this year in response to COVID-19. The board played a significant role in supporting this, but the management team can take credit for the outcomes as the Personal Leadership Program went completely online during Term 2, and our fundraising events were modified quickly in response. I think the quality of people at all levels across the organisation is an achievement. We definitely have an outstanding CE in Erin and this has been more than evident this year in the face of adversity as Youth Opportunities continues to thrive.”

Hope for the future

“I hope the organisation continues its focus on improving across all areas, there is always room for improvement, and adapting to a changing environment and meeting market wants and community expectations.

“With this focus on improvement I think we can increase our reach and grow our programs for individuals and the broader community in a sustainable manner. This does not necessarily mean we need to do quantum changes, just go about it in careful, incremental way making improvements as we continue to adapt and evolve.”

What would you say to someone thinking about supporting Youth Opportunities?

“It is a privilege to be able to contribute to Youth Opportunities at any stage of life, but particularly where you are in a position to be able to give back to a community that has treated you well. It really is about paying it forward. We have all got an obligation to do something beyond ourselves and to be honest it feels good to do that –– helping is really good.

“I kind of see it that, you might get the satisfaction from buying a new car, but it only lasts for a short time, and that is fine, but actually helping somebody to help transform their own lives for the better, well that feels great, especially when you are joining with others to help make those opportunities possible.

“If people can participate in supporting something so fundamental to our society, if you can help in a little way to give young people the opportunity to build better values, ambition, resilience and feel good about themselves, well you have got to help.

“Having an economics background I relate it to the Multiplier effect –you help a young person and then that young person helps improve someone else and then those improvements continue to multiply– it is an economic concept that applies equally to this for young people, and it is how we create sustainable and ongoing change in communities.”

Categories: Supporters, Team