Cecil Hills – History Extension mentoring program

On Wednesday, December 7, the Department of History and the Department of Classics and Ancient History commenced a new partnership with Cecil Hills High School, as part of the History Extension mentoring program. Located in south-west Sydney, Cecil Hills is a large but vibrant school where over eighty percent of students have a language background other than English. In the week prior to our visit, the school had just celebrated its twentieth year.
USYD History students Stephanie Schenk, Sarah Charak, and Samantha Lawford were selected as mentors for the program, and they spent the first session with Year 12 students Alyssa Marsili, Kayla Oshana, and Christina Hanna working to refine their research topics and each develop a specific line of inquiry engaging with historiographical debates. Alyssa, Kayla, and Christina are tackling a range of topics from Native American to Russian and Assyrian history.
The students found this first session very useful. Alyssa wrote that “I was able to gain a different perspective on my chosen topic due to the the feedback I received, which helped me finally attempt to narrow down my argument and thesis.”
Christina thought that “the uni visit was a beneficial experience that raised many questions which I had not thought about concerning my extension project. I left the mentoring session with new ideas and new things to implement into my project. My mentor was extremely helpful and gave me many starting points and suggestions.”
And Kayla added, importantly, “It was an incredibly helpful and fun experience!”
The program consists of five school and university visits over a six-month period, where the mentors also provide guidance on applying to and studying at university. We are looking forward to hosting the students here at the University of Sydney in February, when they will meet up with the students and mentors from the History Extension program at Chifley College Senior Campus and get a chance to tour the campus before doing some research in the library.

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Students and mentors work together on initial ideas while teacher Felicity Wicks looks on

We are very pleased to have created this new relationship with Cecil Hills High School, and look forward to getting to know the students better. We are especially keen to encourage students with second languages (and more) to study history at Sydney because those abilities are invaluable in our increasingly globalising world, and of course new international history initiatives.
We are also grateful to teachers Stephanie Haskett and Felicity Wicks for their enthusiasm for the program. Both are creative and inspiring teachers who are already teaching us new tricks for the classroom. Felicity promises to introduce us to the world of Virtual Reality and History on our next visit. While running the mentoring program, we also hope to visit with and host Stephanie’s Year 12 Ancient History students, too.
Finally, in a nice turn, one of the student mentors who volunteered to work with the Cecil Hills group, Steph Schenk (who is in her 3rd year of Uni) told us that she first decided she wanted to go to Sydney Uni when she came here five years ago with Trinity Catholic College, Auburn, and did a campus tour with student volunteers and heard mini-lectures from Helen Dunstan and Robert McCowan. It turned out that was one of the first school visits we organised to the Uni as part of this program, and it was the first time Steph had visited a University. We are very pleased that Steph is now a valuable volunteer on the program, and pursuing a teaching career.