Ohana College aims to improve student welfare and education through partnership with Griffith University

The large class sizes and rigid structure of mainstream education did not sit well with 15-year-old Xander Hughes.

Xander has a range of complex diagnoses including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), face blindness, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and sensory processing disorder (SPD).

Regular school teachers lacked the resources to educate and support her son, his mother Michelle said.

Attending a more inclusive school helped Xander Hughes flourish.(Provided: Michelle Hughes)

“The teachers, even though they’ve done their best, they’re not equipped, they don’t have the training, they don’t have the time – they also have 30 other children to work with,” he said. she declared.

Xander had been kicked out of two schools and was spending a lot of time at home when Michelle found Ohana College, a school with an alternative approach to education.

When he interviewed for college, Xander felt it was the right place for him.

“I think it’s like any other school but a bit more open to understanding a student’s issues,” he said.

The 10th grader has made new friends by joining clubs and societies at school.

“Everyone in the club was welcoming and chatty and made me feel like I belonged there,” Zander said.

A conceptual image of the planned campus of Ohana College in Logan on the campus of Griffith University.
The planned campus of Ohana College in Logan on the campus of Griffith University.(Provided: Griffith University)

A new partnership to cement student pathways

Ohana College is a small independent school based in Browns Plains, supporting its current cohort of 91 students in grades 7-12.

Established in 2016, the school was designed for students who had disengaged from mainstream school; for example, if they had family or social problems, medical diagnoses that prevented them from attending a typical school, or other health problems.

Ohana general manager Aaron Devine said demand for enrollment at the school was “significant” and growing as more families sought specialized support.

A new partnership between Griffith University and the independent Logan School for Disengaged Students will hopefully provide these teens with better learning or career paths.

The college is expected to expand to more than 300 students in the coming years and has reached an agreement with Griffith University to relocate to the university’s Logan campus, providing Ohana College students with internships within university and research opportunities.

“We look forward to partnering with Griffith University,” Mr. Devine said.

“We worked with them to get access to land on their Logan site.

“The idea will be to grow our school over time to 300 enrollments and work in partnership with Griffith University to improve our student welfare, education and some research outcomes.”

A group of students working in a room
The school incorporates wellness, mental health and social support into its curriculum.(Provided: Ohana College)

Students can consider a future career

On their first day at school, Alex’s brother Riley was “nervous” about attending a non-traditional school, but they soon realized it was fine with them.

“There are many amazing things about this school, such as prepared meals, classes that meet your needs, and all the staff and students make you feel like you’re always included,” they said.

“My favorite thing is clubs and societies – being able to join a club you like and become friends with like-minded people is exciting.

“Being at Ohana College has helped me figure out what I want to be when I’m older, I imagine myself running my own business, probably carpentry or landscaping.”

Riley, who has short hair and wears black, bends over a school desk holding 4 sticks together at the top with marshmallow bases
Riley Hughes said the classes meet the individual needs of the students.(Provided: Ohana College)

Logan’s Growth

Griffith’s Logan Campus is based in Meadowbrook and serves approximately 2,000 students.

A school campus is being built for Ohana on site, with the school expected to leave Browns Plains in time for the first term of next year.

Ohana College has small classes of about 15 per class, with one teacher and one teacher’s aide in each.

The school also employs psychologists, guidance counsellors, social workers and educators to support students throughout their journey.

And almost all students follow individual programs tailored to their specific needs.

“We personalize learning for each student based on their medical diagnosis or personal situation,” Devine said.

Students also receive breakfast, morning tea, and lunch at school as part of Ohana’s welfare program.

“Food is an important part of supporting them in their learning and making sure they’re ready to learn,” he said.

Two students sitting at a table
Ohana College is an independent school that charges no tuition fees.(Provided: Ohana College)

The college is sister to Arcadia College on the Gold Coast, which has a similar partnership with Southern Cross University.

Ohana’s first cohort of Grade 11-12 students graduated last year, with the school hoping the partnership with Griffith University will give these students a chance to explore what they want to do next.

“Dynamic and exciting place”

Griffith Vice-Chancellor and President Carolyn Evans said the university is interested in working with Logan’s youth.

“As part of the collaboration, Griffith will host an on-site research center at Ohana College, which will integrate existing university research programs focused on health, social welfare, secondary education and teachers aimed at obtaining impactful results,” Professor Evans said.

“This is another step in Griffith’s plans to ensure we work with partners to make the Logan campus a hub that supports local communities and meets their needs.”

Devine said Ohana will grow to about 116 students next year, meeting demand from the Logan community.

“It’s an exciting place, there’s really significant growth in this community in all areas – education, health, everything,” he said.

“It’s going to be a really vibrant and exciting place, and it’s also a great multicultural community, so it’s going to be a fantastic community to engage in.”

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