Not many bosses would be recommending the new worker be the man to take over his job, but FOGS Executive Director Gene Miles will argue that former Maroons prop Steve Price is no ordinary man.
Price, for so many years one of the cornerstones of the Queensland and Australians forward packs, has – in his first season of retirement – emerged as the cornerstone of an education revolution.
The FOGS’ Achieving Results Through Indigenous Education (ARTIE) Program recently introduced the “Steve Price Program”, where the inspirational qualities and leadership of the former Warriors captain could be used to make a difference for struggling Queensland students.
The Steve Price Project involved Price meeting one-on-one with 42 selected Indigenous ARTIE program students striving to improve their academic, behavioural and attendance results.
After working with each student to set goals, Price then provided inspiration and encouragement for the students, with the end result for these students who reached their goals being an end-of-term lunch with Price.
The FOGS and the school principals involved were hopeful of seeing moderate improvement.
But Linda Thompson, the FOGS Project Services Officer, says what they got instead was a phenomenon.
“So far, the results have been outstanding,” Linda says. “A lot of the kids have doubled their attendance rate in the space of one term, talking to Pricey.
“Some of these kids were sitting at around 30-40 per cent attendance, and they have turned that around to 70 or 80 per cent. The kids that were sitting at around 50 per cent are basically on 100 per cent.
“We thought if we got 50 per cent of the kids to get along to the ultimate reward of lunch at the end of term, then that would be doing well. At the moment, though, I would say we are looking at around 80 per cent.
“When you have 42 kids involved in this project, what has been achieved is a massive result.”
Linda says Pricey’s natural ability to relate to the kids and his genuine nature have made his work such an amazing success.
“We had Steve out here previously just on a school visit. It was around the time of the second Origin game this year, and someone had to pull out at the last minute so we asked Steve if he would like to step in,” Linda says.
“We really saw his connection with the kids, and the kids identified with him as well.
“The thing is, you can’t bluff these kids. They can spot someone who is not genuine from 100 miles away. And I think that is really where Steve resonated with them.
“Even though the State of Origin campaign worked really well, we thought we would make it a little more personal, and that is why we decided to target just the six kids at each school.
“We are certainly looking at duplicating it next year, with perhaps using Steve again, but also getting someone else on board that we can use in the same vein.
“He has really started something here.”
Like Linda, Geno says he has just been blown away by the results that Pricey has been able to achieve through the program.
“It has made a major impact,” Geno said. “We really cannot believe the results that we are getting from it. Pricey is the ideal person for this sort of work.
“He is a champion bloke, who sits down and relates to these kids.
“I really want to get him involved further in the FOGS set-up when he gets back to Queensland, because he is very thorough and very passionate about the work he is doing for us.
“I wish we could clone him and have him everywhere at once.
“He is very committed to the program as well, and stays in touch with the kids via FOGBook when he is back in New Zealand just to make sure things are on track for them.
“The Steve Price Program has been a real winner for us. So we will be looking at using it as a template for more next year with the likes of Wendell Sailor and others, because the system is a winner,”
So impressed is Geno by Pricey’s approach, application and success with the ARTIE Program, he paid the former bookend the ultimate compliment by earmarking Price as the man to take over the reins of the FOGS for the next generation.
“I know he has to wait until his wife finishes her studies in New Zealand before Steve returns to Queensland, but I really do think that he is among the blokes we should be looking at grooming for taking over my role,” Geno said.
“I haven’t even run this past him, but I would certainly like him to consider taking the role over when my time here is up.
“I have been super impressed with the results he has been getting. We really can’t believe it, and it all stems back to these kids having lunch with Pricey.
“It is not going to cost us the world. It is only a very simple little project. But it is kicking some major goals for us and delivering amazing results.
“I am not planning on walking away anytime soon, but I do think it is important that we be thinking of a succession plan.
“That is something we talk about, and I also think it is important that we get the younger guys more actively involved in the organisation to make sure that we are here in 50 years as well. ”
REAL STORIES WHERE THE STEVE PRICE PROJECT HAS MADE A REAL DIFFERENCE
EXAMPLE 1: “At Woodridge, there was one girl whose attendance level has gone from 55 per cent last term to 100 per cent,” Linda says. “What happened with this girl, though, was an amazing trickle-down effect.
“This particular girl is in Grade 10, but her sister is in Grade 8, and even more disengaged. Her sister’s school attendance rate last term was 15 per cent.
“From the elder one going to school, the younger one is now sitting at 70 per cent.”
EXAMPLE 2: “The good thing is, even though it wasn’t specifically targeted, the kids are getting better academic results as well,” Linda says.
“We have a boy at Beenleigh, who is in Year 10. His attendance in the first term was around 43 per cent, second term 46 per cent, third term 15 per cent. He is now at 98 per cent this term.
“He has never had a better grade result than a C or a D, and he was telling me last week that he has just received his first B+ on an English assessment.
“The principal said to me, he actually thought this particular boy had fallen back into truancy because he hadn’t seen him in his office for three weeks.
“Just talking to this one boy, his self-esteem has just gone up 100 revs. He is actually looking at going to work for four days a week next year, and doing Year 11 one day a week, and then coming back to complete his senior.
“Before this program, at the end of this year, realistically he would have just disappeared.
“That gives you and idea how much this program has impacted on the lives of these kids and the people around them.”
EXAMPLE 3: “There is another boy at Loganlea, he has only ever been awarded a “non-result” for maths – basically he has never been given a grade because of his attitude and what have you,” Linda says.
“He has just been awarded his first B in maths, and he has gone from 46 per cent attendance last term, up to 100 per cent this term.
Funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), the Former Origin Greats ARTIE Program is operating in seven South East Queensland State High Schools in 2010, with plans to expand it into more schools in future years.
Steve Price is an ARTIE Program Ambassador, with the program involving a host of other high profile sports people including Sam Thaiday, Jharal Yow Yeh, Brooke Spence, Allan Langer and Wendell Sailor.
The schools involved in the program include Bundamba, Ipswich, Redbank Plains, Marsden, Woodridge, Loganlea, Beenleigh State High Schools.
An ARTIE Pilot program at Kawana Waters State College was launched during October.