A new scholarship is tailored to applicants who are determined to make a difference.

Cornish College students are taking control of their education in more ways than one — developing not only their own curriculum but the College’s newest scholarship offering.

The new Robert Johnson Scholarship, developed in collaboration between principal and students, will cover 100 per cent of the tuition cost for a new student entering Year 7 in 2023. It aims to attract applicants who otherwise could not afford a Cornish College education.

Cornish College principal Nicola Forrest says as the first named scholarship it is unique in that it epitomises the College’s vision for educating for a sustainable future.

“It’s a scholarship with a difference in that applicants are not going to be assessed on academic performance but assessed on their willingness to make a difference,” Forrest says.

“We think of the successful applicant as being an education explorer who is willing to be a changemaker in our school. At Cornish College, our students are contributors not consumers of education. We want the successful recipient to be a creator and a contributor — that’s important to us,” she explains.

Cornish College, situated in Bangholme, will mark its first decade next year. The school, which has 700 students, offers a curriculum of inquiry learning, starting with a Reggio Emilia approach at the Early Learning Centre before moving into the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme for the primary years. The secondary years continue inquiry-based learning, combining subject-specific knowledge with valuable life skills.

In the subject Design Futures, which sits alongside their VCE studies, secondary students co-create a personalised curriculum that aligns with their own interests and aspirational goals. It was in Design Futures that Forrest was able to work with Year 11 student Reid to develop the selection criteria for The Robert Johnson Scholarship. “Reid interviewed Rev Dr Robert Johnson in the first instance to try and get an understanding from Robert about what was important to him for the scholarship,” Forrest says. “Then he brainstormed with other students in our Design Futures class.” Forrest says students thought about how to select a student without going through a normal testing process and explored what they were looking for in a successful recipient —  a changemaker that was willing to make a difference as opposed to someone wanting to be the best. “These were ideas that came collectively from our Design Futures class and Reid facilitated that,” she says.

Naming the scholarship after Rev Dr Robert Johnson, the inaugural chair of the Cornish College Council and later, the chair of the College Board of Directors, was the perfect fit for a scholarship of its significance. “Robert Johnson completely captures the essence of what it means to be a servant leader,” she says. “So to have a scholarship named after him is really to honour the idea of being here to serve others. “There are many things we could have done to honour Robert. But to actually use his name, to create a scholarship where we’re inviting someone to come to our community and serve, but also serve them, is a real blessing for us to be able to do. “The scholarship just seemed to fit beautifully with the nature of Robert Johnson and everything he’s done for our school and our community.”