Ruth Mitchell first became aware of PCYC at a Duke of Ed Awards ceremony in 1976 at Newcastle Town Hall. A Police officer came up to her asking if she would be willing to help the Police Citizen Youth Club. She accepted and began working with ‘at risk’ children from a range of backgrounds. From Aboriginal to Vietnamese to the homeless and the disabled, Ruth has assisted countless young individuals in improving their circumstances particularly through participation in the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award – Australia.
“Working with youth has taught me patience, empathy, culture and how to break down barriers. Best of all, as a mentor I was accepted into their lives and homes” she said.
A Transformative Experience
Ruth now dedicates much of her time to fundraising where she sources funding so the youth of PCYC can undertake the Award. She strongly believes that the challenge the program provides results in a positive transformative experience for these young Australians in need. By taking on all aspects of the Award, the young Australians achieve progressive modifications, necessary in changing the criminal and anti-social behaviours present. However, Ruth claims that many of these individuals believed it difficult to accomplish the Award due to their harsh histories. Many of the PCYC youth found it challenging to work in an environment largely dependent on teamwork. Arguments would often occur. However Ruth noticed that more often than not such disagreements would be set aside and forgotten in the face of new challenges. Comradery would instead be formed and these individuals would gain important social skills necessary for their futures.
Ruth proudly states PCYC’s mission statement: “We get people involved, we work with young people to develop their skills and character and leadership, and we reduce and prevent crime by and against young people.”
Creating Rewarding Relationships with the Youth
Ruth’s highlight after working for 29 years is the satisfaction of seeing the young adolescents grow and creating a rapport with them. The kids would come to PCYC grappling with adolescence issues, drug addictions and anti-social behaviour. After undergoing The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award and learning through PCYC, they overcome adversity and become self-reliant. Guiding them through this process requires immense patience however on seeing them return as responsible adults and hearing of their latest endeavours, makes it all worthwhile.
One example Ruth remembers fondly is that of a runaway girl, marred by family and drinking issues who turned to PCYC for support. She undertook and completed her Silver Award, finished year 12, went to TAFE, established a career and is now the mother of two children. It is this growth which Ruth finds to be humbling and moving.
PCYC Newcastle president Ruth Mitchell has been honoured for her work for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme receiving a plaque to mark her 45 years’ involvement by His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Chairman of the International Council of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.