Youth worker of the year: Courtney champions respect and understanding 

03 December 2019

St Francis’ School youth worker Courtney Gratteri has been honoured for her tireless efforts to help others at two recent awards ceremonies. 

Last month Courtney was named Anglicare WA Professional Youth Worker of the Year, and later in the same week was announced as one of four finalists (among more than 3000 nominees) for 2020 WA Young Australian of the Year. 

Not content to rest on her laurels, Courtney is already striving for bigger and better things in the midst of a double degree in Psychology and Counselling at Edith Cowan University. 

“I stand before you not as an individual but as a proud representative of every youth worker around the country who labours day after day, year after year,” she said upon receiving her award. 

“Because we know the power of creating safe spaces, building relationships, showing unconditional positive regard and providing nurturing educational environments is priceless”.

St Francis’ School Principal Ian Hagen said the award was recognition of Courtney’s professionalism and the outstanding work she does not only at the school, but also in her local community.  

“She is genuinely passionate about her role and the difference she can make to young people she comes into contact with,” Mr Hagen said. 

Located in Maddington, St Francis’ is CARE (Curriculum and Re-Engagement) school that’s provides a caring and safe environment for teenagers who, for a variety of reasons, have found them themselves educationally marginalised, with their learning and development needs not met by mainstream schooling. 

Courtney habeen the driving force behind the implementation of the Transition to Adult Life (TAL) Program for Year 11 and 12 students, and also worked closely with staff on the Strong Hearts – Strong Minds Program in which she presents and leads workshops for the students.  

“It is important that we come from a place of being strengthbased and clientled when working in communities with young people,” she said. 

Highlighting the strengths of others can improve social connections and enhance a person’s wellbeing.  

Education can radically change the trajectory of a child’s life; it can transform the possibilities of what a child can become and achieve. 

That can change a life, a family and a community forever. 

For Courtney, the dedication required to action such change comes naturally. 

“I truly believe 100 percent in my heart that my purpose in life is to walk alongside and serve young people,” she said. 

Courtney also had some inspirational advice for others looking to enter the field. 

“Be yourself, be kind, be transparent, and advocate and support the most vulnerable people in your community,” she said. 

Building rapport, relationships and connection with young people helps better engage them in education.  

“At the same time, it also helps you to understand their needs so that you can provide them with tailored learning opportunities which supports their best chance of success. 

“We need to remember that they are just kids and they need people who believe in them.”

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