Luke’s love of regional education shines


WANGARATTA born and raised Luke Surace is excited to bring his education program, The Academy back to  his roots next year.

Currently operating in Essendon and Geelong, but set to come to Wangaratta in February 2021. The academy is a full-time education program that provides an alternative to standard year 11 and 12 schooling with a contextualised curriculum that is centred on AFL.

The Academy’s curriculum is based off the VCAL system, while also including a Certificate III in Sport and Recreation program and is co-directed by ex-AFL player Alex Rance.

Co-director Luke Surace spoke to the Wangaratta Chronicle about his journey to creating this program and why it’s important for local communities.

“My background is education; I worked at Wangaratta GOTAFE and started my career there in the design department where I grew an interest in learning models and design,” he said.

“I was recognised and approached to work on a government project in Melbourne, where I further developed my skills and interest in those learning models and how people learn, which was then rolled out across TAFEs in Melbourne.”

“I started a company in the retail/fashion sector where we would go in and design learning for staff; at that point I’d been friends with Alex for a long time.”

“About three years ago he thought about retiring and we were on a trip from the States when he said he’d miss the mentorship from other players and this was when talk of mental health issues was popping up in the AFL space.”

“It seemed early draftees physically prepared for the AFL environment but not mentally prepared for AFL.”

“We created a learning model where the students’ learning all linked back to what they’re passionate about: football.”

“We took that to market and got a huge interest from talented, potential AFL draftees as well as students who hated school but lived and breathed footy and felt that environment would support them through their final years of school.”

“We feel this learning model is really appropriate and can be  applied to other things in future; we have a 100 percent success rate with 95 percent of students completing year 12 and five percent of students going onto an apprenticeship.:

“Growing up in regional Victoria myself  I really understood that you don’t get these opportunities so I’m really excited to bring this to Wangaratta.”

“There are similar opportunities that exist in the city but are really hard to access and we’re seeing that 20-30 percent of our students come from regional communities but relocate to attend our program.”

“We want to open up opportunities in those areas so we’re excited to have Wangaratta as our first regional location; thanks to our connection and partnership with GOTAFE who helped us deliver the program is Essendon and Geelong.”

Luke said that kids in most regional areas have a lower completion rate of year 11 and 12 as a percentage so The Academy’s learning model will “benefit those passionate about football.”

“We wont be able to reach every single kid but we definitely feel we can offer strong support to most and a different pathway,” he said.

“Every single student of ours leaves The Academy knowing the next step in their journey .

“That may not be university but we have seen students go through pathways to regional universities, TAFEs, apprentices; which also supports businesses.

“My favourite part about directing this program all comes down to graduation night.”

“It’s a hard thing setting up a school program from scratch but seeing proud parents in tears with their sons who weren’t “meant” to complete year 10 but have now completed year 12; those moments get us through the hard days of business.”

“Knowing we supported kids who may have taken a completely different path and supported them on a journey to moving forward is priceless.”

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