Aquinas College’s Aquinas Connect initiative was a finalist in this year’s Australian Education Awards in the Best Student Wellbeing Program category.

Aquinas Connect, now in its fifth year at the College, equips incoming Year 7 and 8 new boarding students with connections to future classmates and staff, knowledge of College life and practices, and an understanding of boarding life.

The Aquinas Connect Programme begins six months prior to students starting boarding at the College. The programme combines orientation events on campus with opportunities for the boys to connect with one another at home using a range of social and academic digital platforms. This regular contact bridges the vast physical distances between the boys and helps them begin to develop friendships and a network of support before they start boarding life. The transition to boarding and College life continues for the boys as the programme continues during their first six months at the College the following year.

Head of Boarding Sean Henderson says the positive nature of the relationship building exercises across the initial six-month programme are evident at the second orientation event held at the College.

“It’s an outstanding programme – an extremely comprehensive and well organised initiative. It was noticeable at our Orientation Day in October how the boys and their families already felt a real connection with boarding at Aquinas, and this is primarily thanks to the Aquinas Connect programme,” Mr Henderson says.

“It is terrific that the programme has gained some much deserved recognition by being named as a finalist at this year’s Australian Education Awards. Full credit to Teneeka for her continued outstanding work with the programme. Her calm guidance enables all new boarding families to feel completely reassured when their Aquinas journey begins,” he says.

Aquinas Connect facilitator Teneeka Hill says the programme continues to be developed to ensure the needs of families and incoming boarders are met with the 2017/2018 Aquinas Connect Research Project which tracked students social and emotional wellbeing as they transitioned to Aquinas College. This qualitative and quantitative data was collected in partnership with UWA’s Health Promotion Unit.