The creativity and commitment of Eileen O’Connor Catholic College (EOCC) Lewisham’s students is driving a new social enterprise at the college.

EOC@Work began at the college for students with moderate intellectual disabilities this year.

The not-for-profit enterprise was inspired by a Christmas art project that saw colourful and expressive paintings professionally printed on cards to great effect.

For their first social enterprise project, the students made Mother’s Day cards and gifts with vibrant tutti frutti, palm tree, flamingo and other designs. They sold these at a school stall on May 10.

Creative arts teacher Katie Crowl said the enterprise helped students in years 9 to 10 to practise valuable work skills.

“For the students an important part of it is that they develop confidence and their communication and expressive communication skills,” Ms Crowl said.

“They become workers in a team and learn all of the things you need in the real world.”

Hub supports life skills

A blend of work skills and the creative arts, EOC@Work was named by students and is a practical expression of what students learn through the Life Skills curriculum.

The enterprise operates in a space called ‘The Hub’, a centre where students practise administrative and other work-related tasks. It features a creative centre downstairs and cafe, uniform shop and garden centre on the upper level.

“When the students come in to start their shift, they sign in,” Ms Crowl said.

“We have a team meeting and we allocate the jobs for the day.”

Tasks include the design and production of artworks. In the workshop space, students focus on card-cutting, tracing and later packaging, assembly and distribution.

“The potential is limitless.” – Katie Crowl

“It’s exciting that there is so much creative opportunity for the school,” Ms Crowl said.

“The potential is limitless. The other thing that excites me about our social enterprise is seeing students find confidence. It has been really lovely for students to figure out what their strengths and interests are.”

Year 10 student Scarlett Tagg said painting was her favourite enterprise skill.

“I like coming to the work hub because we learn news skills to prepare us for work outside of school,” she said.

“I feel like this is more hands-on and more creative [than classroom work]. You can do what you want. Everyone’s artwork is going to be different and that’s ok.”

Principal Deborah Bestulic said the hub offered students a skill base that would help them be an active part of their future workplaces and communities.

“We try to tap into their creativity and create an opportunity here that is very similar to a working situation for them in the future,” Ms Bestulic said.

“At the same time we’re building an opportunity for social enterprise in the college.”