What can a Rotarian learn from the NYSF?

Danny Mattsson recalls his NYSF experience 

Danny Mattsson is a Charter Member of Rotary Club of Hervey Bay Sunrise (District 9570) and has served as the NYSF area co-ordinator for that part of Queensland for the past seven years. As if that wasn’t enough, in 2015 and 2016, Danny supported the NYSF in a different way, by volunteering as a Rotary Uncle, and then as Rotary Dad. This experience gave him a first-hand taste of the program, its operations, and the value for the student participants.

Rotary District 9570 covers a large area of Central Queensland with NYSF selections performed through four centres within the District to reduce the need for student applicants to travel long distances. “One advantage of this process is that there are a lot more Rotarians involved in the selection process and everyone has a great time meeting such a worthy group of applicants.”

Danny (left) with NYSF participants visiting the Murray-Darling Basin Authority 2015

Danny (left) with NYSF participants visiting the Murray-Darling Basin Authority 2015

For Danny, the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) has always been a passion of his. “It has been amazing to see the student grow, from their initial discussions with the Rotary Club before they attend the January Sessions, through to seeing a totally changed person return to the club to talk about their experience some months later.”

As part of his involvement in the NYSF, Danny attended the NYSF District Chair conference in Melbourne in 2014. “As part of that event, we met with the NYSF corporate team and NYSF Rotary District Chairs, getting to know them and the program. Most importantly this session was about seeing the challenges of running the NYSF from a management perspective.”

In January 2015, Danny travelled to Canberra as an Uncle for the first week of Session A. “What a blast! Full on from the moment the first busload of students arrived. We were on call for 200 students plus the “Staffies” (student staff leaders) who run the program – providing pastoral care, general first aid and other day to day activities that a parent, or aunt or uncle might provide. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to interact with participants.”

Danny says he was particularly impressed by the student staff leaders and the role that they play in delivering the NYSF program. “Staffies are NYSF alumni who volunteer their time and undergo training throughout their year 12, for their role as leaders and role models for the students. All staffies have to be congratulated because they give up a significant amount of time during the year to be trained and then spend over two weeks of their summer holidays to help manage the operation and keep the students on track.”

Danny returned for the 2016 program, as a Rotary Dad along with a group of other adult volunteers for Session A. “The two weeks flew by, with lab and industry site visits, lectures and workshops all based around STEM activities. The experience overall was fantastic – from working with everyone in the NYSF corporate team to the Staffies, students, and our team of Aunts, Uncles, Mums and Dads.

“As a Rotarian, the biggest thing for me was seeing the 200 students develop from the initial discussion at selections, through the course of the two weeks – it really was something to behold. At the end of the experience, I think everyone matures. For student participants, they leave with a greater understanding of the direction and pathway they wish to follow. For us, the volunteers, we are left with a sense of knowing and understanding that our future and that of generations to follow will be in better hands.”