Explainer: What is VCESS?

From the 11th to the 22nd of January, editor Travis and sub-editor Bella volunteered on-campus for the VCE Summer School. They’ve done their research, and are now here to tell you all about it!

What is VCESS?

As the name suggests, VCESS is a VCE summer school that caters to students from underrepresented schools or who have suffered some form of adversity during their schooling. The programme consists of two weeks of classes, lectures and social activities run by nearly 200 volunteer tutors.

What actually happens at VCESS?

Source: VCESS Facebook

Each student receives a timetable with 6 classes for each of their VCE subjects, 3 English lectures, independent study time, group meeting times, workshop time and activity times. Each is allocated a group – there are two smaller groups for each letter of the alphabet (eg. X1 and X2) and the two groups of the same letter often combined to complete activities like trivia and a scavenger hunt, which really broadened the friendship circles!

Most students just come from 9am-4:15pm and head home – but 80 students who lived too far to travel stayed at St Hilda’s College and had residential tutors take them through awesome activities each afternoon!

Workshop choices for the kids ranged from Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, to Beginner’s Coding, to Salsa dancing! These were all facilitated by the tutors and it was awesome to see the variety of interests and talents of our tutors.

Then, after two weeks, it was time for tearful goodbyes. Well, maybe not tearful, because while everyone was sad to leave VCESS, people were too busy running around getting people to sign their VCESS shirts, getting photos, and dancing! It was wonderful to hear students saying they wished it wasn’t over, they had learnt so much, and best of all – were feeling confident for Year 11 and 12.


What did you get up to at VCESS, Travis?

Travis with his partner in crime, Silvana, with whom he taught LOTE. Source: Supplied

This was my second time at VCESS, so I tried a lot harder this time around to really get involved. To that end, I taught 1/2 Biology and a mix of 3/4 LOTEs, ran some workshops and also worked as a Teaching Support Officer (TSO).

Both of my classes had fantastic students who were really motivated to learn, even on their holidays. This year, I was also fortunate to get an opportunity to team tutor (i.e. teach with someone else). Naturally, this can be very difficult but I was extremely lucky to get to work with two wonderful people who really made it a fantastic experience.

The two workshops I worked on were an introduction to Spanish and one about communication and leadership. Three tutors worked on the intro to Spanish, which included a Spanish rendition of Adele’s Hello and a lesson on how to order a burrito without sounding like a gringo. The Communication and Leadership workshop is one that I’ve used for a while now, which essentially aims to help people improve their conversation skills and, critically, learn to deal with their nerves.

Finally, my work as a TSO involved working with other tutors to help them improve their own classes. At the end of the programme, a couple of the tutors who had come to see me came up and thanked me for my help, which really did make my week.

Last year I missed the goodbye festival, which happens at the end of the programme. I was so glad I made it this time. What really struck me was the atmosphere. The students had only spent two weeks at Melbourne, but it was really clear that they all felt like they were part of something. There were hugs, tears and even a standing ovation for the directors at the goodbye festival, which showed me how much the students enjoyed their time their and how thankful they were for the opportunity. So many feels!

I really loved my time at VCESS this year. I loved meeting some wonderful students who, despite having it a bit rough, will undoubtedly go on to smash VCE. I loved spending time with  all the wonderful people working on the programme, with particular shout-outs to the Ops team and the fantastic Alma and Silvana, with whom I taught. Most of all though, I loved being part of a programme that really makes a difference in an area that is so, so, so important.

And you, Bella?

Source: Supplied

2016 was my first year experiencing VCESS, and it was a lot of fun! I tutored three classes (Psychology, Business Management and Dance) and also gave students one-on-one tutoring. I also was a Group Leader (we were X2, as you can see in our poses in the photo!), so I had an awesome group of minions students to lead through non-academic activities like Trivia, and ‘Amazing Race’ and a trip to the museum!
Having these roles meant that I came to VCESS every day for the 2 weeks. It was a bit of a reality check having to be up at 6am again after holidays… but I was really passionate about helping these kids get the head start they deserve for VCE! It was really interesting seeing the classroom from the other side, making lesson plans, writing notes on the whiteboard, etc. I think the best feeling of the entire program was when students walked out of my class saying thank you and that I’d really helped them! Year 11 and 12 can be tough years academically and socially – so I think that the academic and social sides of VCESS were extremely valuable to these new Year 11 and 12 students.
It was certainly a new experience for me, and a great chance to develop my public speaking, organisation and tutoring skills. I’m lucky that the VCESS team for 2016 was full of amazing, hilarious, friendly and supportive people. Not only did all the tutors become friends in such a welcoming environment, but we had some Special Roles teams to help us out. These included Tutor Support Officers, Welfare, Operations and IT Operations and a ‘Zine Team who published an awesome newsletter every day of the program, and a ‘Mega-Zine’ for the final day!
It was bittersweet saying goodbye to the kids on that final Friday. We saw students with new friends and confidence to face the year ahead and perform at their best! I highly recommend applying to volunteer at VCESS in 2017 – it is an experience you will cherish!


Why should I get involved?

Many Michael Riccas. Source: Supplied (Facebook)
  • because you care about equal access to a great education
  • because you want to work with wonderful tutors and wonderful students
  • because you like free T-shirts
  • because having an actual reason to go to the pub each day of the week will give your life meaning
  • because your life is strictly #nofrat anyway


How do I get involved?

Source: VCESS Facebook

VCESS hires new tutors each year. Follow the VCESS Facebook page and regularly check their website for details. Generally, new tutors are interviewed at the start of semester two.

Previous Posts + More Info

Source: VCESS Facebook

Daphane’s VCESS 2014 Experience
Daphane’s VCESS Workshop
VCESS Website
VCESS Facebook Page
Herald Sun Article about VCESS


-Bella & Travis


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