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2015 VCE Leadership Awards shows Manon Dennison is a source of inspiration

Article from Herald Sun
Published Tuesday 6 October 2015:

MANON Dennison believes that small steps have the power to create big change.

The sum of a lot of little things can make a big difference,” says the Year 12 student from St Catherine’s School in Toorak.

Manon uses her voice to encourage others to change their attitudes, celebrate diversity and see community engagement as a regular part of their lives. If you can change the thought system of one community, it can have a positive domino effect,” says Manon.

With high hopes for making a difference in her local community, Manon joined the Stonnington Young Local Leaders Program.

Over an eight-month period she worked with a team of 15 young leaders to deliver a number of projects aimed at engaging young people and celebrating youth diversity.

Manon and her team created an action group to support Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, lntersex and Queer (GLBTIQ) youth in high schools. There is a lot of stigma,” says Manon.

“We wanted to create a more supportive environment for young people to learn about GLBTIQ and discuss the issues faced by these communities.” The group organised an awareness day for schools, delivering a program of lectures, forums, discussion groups and games for students. Manon’s aim was to raise awareness of the GLBTIQ community and to help other young people gain an understanding of GLBTIQ youth. She also helped curate a photography exhibition to build positive perceptions of young people in her community.

She interviewed and photographed people from Stonnington between the ages of 13 to 25, asking each person to choose a word that described what makes them unique. Manon and her team then created a series of written and photographic portraits that \Vere exhibited at the Jam Factory and other spaces around South Yarra.

Amy Burns of the Youth Leadership and Development Unit at YMCA Victoria says Manon’s passion for her community is authentic and inspiring.

She praises Manon’s enthusiasm to always step up and get involved, saying that her commitment and leadership role in the community is second to none”. Encouraging healthy body image in young people is also important to Manon.

In 2014, she joined a committee of students to help stage the Expression Fashion Gala to promote the Butterfly Foundation, an organisation that supports Australians with eating disorders. Manon worked diligently to help organise the sell-out fashion show, including securing sponsorship, promoting the event and arranging a guest speaker.

Manon, who studies VET Applied Design and Technology: Fashion, joined other young designers in creating a piece for the show, inspired by the words ·wellbeing, diversity, happiness and health”.

“We wanted to have an event where everyone is perfect in their own way,” says Manon.

Beyond her local community, Manon is also an ambassador for global change. Inspired by CARE Australia, she organised a local Walk in Her Shoes team, which raised more than $3300 to provide a water system for a village in a developing country. I gained a clear understanding of the importance of delegation, organisation and good communication between everyone involved,” says Manon.

Manon has also supported various other local causes including the Red Cross Door Knock Appeal, the Good Friday Appeal and the Red Shield Appeal. She is now volunteering at the Starlight Express Room at the Royal Children’s Hospital, supporting children with play, arts and craft and dance.

The VCE Leadership Awards recognise the efforts of VCE students in promoting leadership and participation in their school and local community.

VCE Leadership students demonstrate initiative, inspire others, work well in a team and are committed to making a difference.

They take an interest in activities such as the arts, sport, debating and public speaking; they may campaign for social justice and environmental protection and/or raise funds for worthy causes.

The VCE Leadership Awards are sponsored by Lenovo and the Herald Sun.

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