Where are they now? Sophie Sparks (Johns, 1988)
My journey began in 1975 as a Kindergarten student at Inglehome, the Pymble Prep school. I remember my first day and being given a peg on the verandah with a picture of a blue butterfly above it. My teacher, Mrs Hinchcliffe said to me “I look forward to watching your wings grow.” Being only five, I thought that it was incredible that now I was attending school I would grow wings! Looking back, Mrs Hinchcliffe had incredible insight; through my Pymble journey and experiences, I certainly did grow my wings.
After graduating from Pymble in 1988, I attended Ku-ring-gai College, now UTS, to follow my dream of becoming a teacher. Soon after graduating, I headed to London where I established my education career and co-founded The Lyceum School. My teaching career took me on a global journey and after the birth of my two daughters, I had the opportunity to work for some incredible families as their private tutor.
Returning to Sydney in 2010 and working with schools, it was evident that whilst education had rapidly changed with the introduction of technology, many students were experiencing feelings of isolation, anxiety and school refusal. The same comment was made over and over again; I have nobody to play with, I have no friends, I have nobody to sit with.
As we are aware, schools are filled with empathetic children, however they are often hard to identify, so YOU CAN SIT WITH ME was born.
YOU CAN SIT WITH ME is now a registered Australian Charity dedicated to helping reduce the feeling of anxiety, loneliness, and social isolation amongst students in schools, sporting clubs and community groups. YOU CAN SIT WITH ME works with wellbeing leaders, administrators, students, teachers and parents to create an inclusive environment in which all students feel safe and welcomed.
Providing students with a safe and accepting environment creates an atmosphere where all students can succeed regardless of their age, race, religion, gender, or disability. YOU CAN SIT WITH ME also works to educate students, parents and teachers about the importance of inclusion and acceptance.
YOU CAN SIT WITH ME works in other ways including developing leadership skills and peer mentoring among students. Through the program, students learn how to empower themselves, take initiative and become more confident in their own abilities. These leadership skills are invaluable for children as they grow and develop.
YOU CAN SIT WITH ME has created a literacy program to further eradicate social isolation specifically targeting First Nations, refugees and other vulnerable Australians.
YOU CAN SIT WITH ME works to create more inclusive classrooms by supplying resources and training for teachers so they can create a supportive and welcoming atmosphere and where teachers and students can engage in positive interactions and learning.
We also engage in community work. In 2020, we supported the flood victims here in Australia. By partnering with IGA, we were able to supply food vouchers to families in need. In 2021 we partnered with Smiggle and launched the YOU CAN SIT WITH ME Afghan appeal and supplied a backpack, a filled pencil case, water bottle and exercise books for every student Afghan refugee that arrived in Australia. This is something we are incredibly proud of.
YOU CAN SIT WITH ME is a simple yellow wristband with a life changing message.
To learn more please head to our website www.youcansitwithme.org.