Hub unites community at Chester Hill North

Chester Hill North Public School is changing the community, one Zumba class at a time. Ben Worsley reports.

Students and teachers standing in front of a mural. Students and teachers standing in front of a mural.
Image: Alondra Colantonio, Community Hub Leader, and Amanda Adams, Principal, with students from Chester Hill North Public.

When Amanda Adams took over as principal at Chester Hill North Public School 18 months ago, she quickly realised what her new school needed.

After years of COVID restrictions, it was time to “open the gates” again to the community.

“When teachers, parents and students work together, that’s when the outcomes soar,” she said.

But opening the gates was just the start.

Three months ago, Chester Hill North started a Community Hub, which offers a huge range of classes for parents, extended family and even members of the wider community.

Alondra Colantonio is from Community Hubs Australia, the non-profit group which runs the program.

“It’s about bringing the whole community together - teachers, parents, neighbours - because we all have an impact on kids and their development,” she said.

The organisation connects the school with outside agencies, which deliver the classes and services.

Chester Hill North runs classes in parenting, art and craft, English, nutrition and sport for toddlers, as well as play groups, coffee and chat groups - even Zumba lessons for those after something active.

Two women standing in front of a mural. Two women standing in front of a mural.
Image: Faten Fayad and Marwa Habib feel the hub has helped bring about positive change in the community.

Faten Fayad is the parent of a Year 2 student and started coming to the hub as soon as it opened.

“I feel like this is my second home now and when I do go home, I can’t stop talking to my kids about what I’ve been doing,” she said.

“I really believe having this hub has actually changed the community.

“I’ve seen new parents come who didn’t know anyone, now they feel so welcome, so comfortable, they’re willing to try out new things. It’s amazing.”

Aisha Hameed is one of those new parents.

“I’m much more confident now,” she said.

“Before I wasn’t going anywhere. I didn’t have any friends, but now I have so many friends in the other parents.”

Even parent attendance at the school’s athletics carnival has increased, with many of the hub mums and dads turning up this year in the colours of their children’s house.

And the P and C is growing in numbers by the week.

Marwa Habib has two children at the school.

“Seeing other parents from different cultures, speaking different languages, all getting to know each other in the one place, is actually really good for you emotionally,” she said.

The hub serves another important role. The instructors keep an eye out for the families who attend and identify any extra help they might require.

They then connect them to agencies that can help with financial, emotional or medical needs.

“It’s very fulfilling this role because I love to make a difference to people,” Ms Colantonio said.

“As a migrant myself and someone who’s raised two boys, I feel like it’s a great way to give back as a citizen.”

It’s still early days for the community hub at Chester Hill North Public School, but Amanda Adams is one proud principal.

“It’s amazing to see everyone working together, and I can’t wait to see where we are next year,” she said.

“We want to make sure our parents feel valued in our school because we value them.”

Women sitting at a table. Women sitting at a table.
Image: Members of the community participate in a parenting class at Chester Hill North Public School.
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