Mike Toone introduced and conducted a dialogue with Bronte Baker, an outstanding success story for Standing Tall, Mike and Bronte.
In Year 9 Bronte was at a fork in the road – was a difficult, disinterested student on the verge of expulsion from school. He went to Standing Tall because there was food available and it was a way of getting out of the classroom for a period of time.
Bronte admitted that he had no respect for teachers or any part of school and just did not want to be there.
Mike worked with Bronte to set goals which included lifting his game at home, staying out of trouble at school, winning his footy club Best & Fairest, and completing Year 12 because no-one in his family had ever done it. Slowly but surely, he worked through second semester of Year 9 with only one misdemeanour compared to one per week in Semester 1. The one slip caused Bronte great concern, fearing that he had let down his new friends at Standing Tall, and finding that they accepted things and encouraged him to “get on with it”.
Though his participation in Standing Tall should have ended, Mike was able to continue to support Bronte through Year 10 as a “test case”, including the use of older students to mentor the younger ones. Bronte had improved his relationships with teachers and others and kept in contact with Mike. Year 11 was a challenge, but Year 12 was described by Bronte as “a breeze”.
He graduated from secondary school and was accepted into Ballarat Uni for Sports Science. He very soon found that it was not for him and, while not wanting to let his mentors down, made the decision to leave and took a job at Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, where he worked lots of night shifts. At the age of 20 years and a few months, he had saved $34,000, was able to put a deposit on a house which he shares with three mates who are paying his mortgage for him.
That completed, Bronte has moved on to now work for Ray White Real Estate after showing great persistence in convincing them that he was suitable.
In summarising, the will to change things for the better must come from within, but having an encouraging mentor giving the occasional nudge is also of very great value. Bronte has turned out to be a credit to Mike, to the Standing Tall program, but more than either of those, to himself.