D-day: The launch of our new large scale student wellbeing program

As I pulled into the driveway of Cumberland High School yesterday morning, I felt ecstatic, nervous, febrile. It was finally D-day. Our team’s time, energy and focus of the past 12 months culminated in yesterday’s delivery of our first full scale Wellbeing and Community Leadership program. 

As I mentioned in a recent post, our team has spent the last year researching, brainstorming, creating, testing, re-testing and, most importantly, collaborating with partner schools, to bring this new wellbeing program to life. 

Over the last three months, we’ve onboarded 16 facilitators to help us deliver the workshop component of our program. These 16 individuals bring a wealth of knowledge and such diverse backgrounds and experiences - from teachers, coaches, outdoor educators and youth workers, to actors, writers and musicians. All have one thing in common: a strong belief in every young person’s potential, and a deep passion for helping them realise it. So I know we couldn’t be in better hands.

As the school bell rang at 9.05am, just under 150 students, the whole Year 9 cohort, joined our facilitators in class-size groups. 

Mechel Pikoulas, Principal of Cumberland High School, started the day with a special message to students: “This program is about you, it’s about helping you think who you want to be and develop the skills that will guide you through your life. Grab this opportunity and make the most of it.”

Over the following four hours, they discussed, watched engaging video content, took part in fun but challenging hands-on activities, reflected, laughed and, no doubt, learnt. 


At 1.05pm, the lunch bell rang to indicate the end of our day. High fives went around our group. Just like that, in one day, we had the privilege of interacting with and starting to impact 150 young people. Hopefully, we planted a seed for them… a seed that will help them write their own life story, determine who they want to be, the actions they will commit to and the strengths and support they will draw on to make their vision a reality.

Our team will be analysing our survey results over the coming days, but some of the initial student feedback has included:

“It gives reliable and useful information on things many people would've wanted to learn back at school. Using this in the daily life would probably get you further in life.”

“It really taught me important life lessons that will be needed so many times such as communicating, team work, making goals etc.”

Over the coming weeks, these students will go through a series of lessons designed by The Helmsman Project and delivered by their teachers to reinforce the workshop learnings and help the seed take root and blossom.

The Helmsman Project set sail in 2013 with 15 students. Ever since that first adventure, we’ve been contemplating how our evidence-based approach could potentially impact the journey of many more youths. Today was the beginning of a new horizon.

As Denzel Washington puts it in the inspirational speech below (which we show our students), “aspire to make a difference”. That is what has been guiding us over the last eight years and is our mission for young people. If you feel inspired to support us on our journey or bring our approach to your school, get in touch with me (kim.larochelle@thehelmsmanproject.org.au) - I’d love to connect.

Best wishes,


Kim Larochelle

Kim joined The Helmsman Project as a volunteer when it first started delivering programs in 2013. In January 2014, she became one of the organisation's first two employees and is now CEO. She has had the privilege, along with the team, to witness and support The Helmsman Project's growth.

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