Indigenous equals success - the AIME approach

What began as a small mentoring program 11 years ago with zero funding has now become one of the most cost effective and reliable solutions to closing the gap in Indigenous educational outcomes. IE Journalist Alex Leggett spoke to Jack Manning Bancroft, CEO and Founder of the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME), about the organisation’s plans to reach 10,000 kids across the country by 2018.

AIME is a dynamic education program set up in 2005 when Jack was a 19 year old university student. It all began in Sydney’s suburb of Redfern with just 25 Indigenous high school students and 25 mentors from the neighbouring University of Sydney. It was a pivotal moment for the organisation that now works with around 4500 mentees and mentors nationwide.

Since those early days, AIME has stood by one mantra: Indigenous equals success.

“Indigenous kids are born superheroes, we just show them how to fly,” Jack said. “We believed in a day where Indigenous kids could march proudly alongside their peers as equals and we wanted to make that a reality.”

With that belief, AIME students are smashing stereotypes. Students completing the program are proven to finish school and transition to university, training and employment at the same rate as every Australian child – effectively closing the gap in educational outcomes. From 2014 to 2015, 76% of AIME Year 12 students transitioned into positive post school pathways, surpassing the national non Indigenous rate of 75% and well above the national Indigenous rate of 40%.

By 2018, the organisation hopes to engage 10,000 Indigenous high school students across Australia every year, and have each student finishing school and transitioning to university, training or employment at the same rate as their non Indigenous peers, because as Jack said, “these kids deserve no less”.

Driving the pipeline of Indigenous talent

Over the past five years, AIME has run a special session where mentees write and deliver a speech as the first Indigenous Prime Minister of Australia. AIME watched hundreds of students step up to share their vision, as they were compelled to share it with the nation.

In 2013 as the federal election was heating up, AIME launched its own campaign – The Other Election. It showcased 646 Indigenous students in Years 10 to 12 delivering what would be their inaugural speech as Australia’s first Indigenous Prime Minister. Over 70,000 votes were cast, with three finalists travelling to Canberra to meet with the Prime Minister and deliver their speeches to a Senate Committee Room packed with journalists, camera crews, politicians and the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion.

Jack’s optimism and sheer faith in the potential of Indigenous youth is unwavering.

“There’s an amazing amount of talent out there and we see our job as getting in alongside teachers and schools to try and help light that spark of imagination in kids and unlock the magic of learning for them,” he said.

“For the next three years, our focus is on doubling the amount of kids we are working with and to reach out to 10,000 kids per year.”

It is an achievable goal. Today AIME is connecting approximately 4500 mentees with 1600 mentors across 37 locations and in partnership with 18 Australian universities and 350 schools.

Both mentee and mentor benefit from the pairing, working through modules that offer launch pads for real life opportunities for the mentees to extend themselves through internships for artists, performance opportunities for musicians, ambassador programs and more.

“We have close to 1500 university students lining up alongside us who are mainly non Indigenous and want to connect with the next generation of Indigenous kids coming through,” he said.

“This will help support their transition to university, employment and further education at the same rate as every Australian child to effectively get them walking past the gap, not just closing the gap.”

AIME has already proven its ability to achieve their goals of increasing Year 10 and 12 completion rates, as well as university admission rates for all Indigenous students in the program. Last year, 93% of AIME’s Year 12 kids completed school, which is 6% above Australia’s non-Indigenous rate of 86%.

The entire AIME program equates to a six year course known at the AIME Institute, comprising 49 modules designed for all year levels. Since 2005, each module has been developed and delivered by Indigenous young people and they are improved each year with input from AIME’s mentees and mentors. When a student engages in the AIME program throughout their schooling career, they get the opportunity to access more than 150 hours of mentoring and academic support.

Alongside the AIME Institute are two other arms of the organisation: Tutor Squads, which are deployed into schools, and one-to-one coaching, with career and post school transition support.

“Although it’s time intensive, we pride ourselves on tracking every single student’s journey through the AIME program as well as continuing to work with students after they graduate from Year 12, with the goal of landing them in a positive post school pathway,” Jack said.

How can you get involved?

There are three simple ways your school community can get involved:

Jump on the AIME website and check out where AIME operates. If you have Indigenous students at your school, AIME may be able to support them.

Head to AIME’s online shop where you can grab some gear designed by Indigenous kids, wear it with pride and help AIME reach 10,000 Indigenous students by 2018.

Launching in September 2015 the Ambassadors of Indigenous Success (AIS) program is a chance for your school to make a statement that you are willing to work alongside the next generation of Indigenous kids and help create a wave of Indigenous success across the country. The AIS program offers a toolkit for primary or secondary teachers, which draws on AIME’s world-class educational resources proven to light up kids’ imaginations. Keep an eye on for your chance to be part of the program.

There’s an amazing amount of talent out there and we see our job as getting in alongside teachers and schools to try and help light that spark of imagination in kids and unlock the magic of learning for them.