Students turn history into reality

16-year-old Braidon Berridge, 17-year-old Madison Turner, 17-year-old Annelise Isaacs and 18-year-old Emily Pollock. Brendon Speechley was unavailable for the photo. Photo: Megan Dunn
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Five young Penrith locals are currently on the trip of a lifetime after taking off to walk the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea last Saturday.

Out of the 10 applicants that were interviewed, 17-year-old Annelise Isaacs, 17-year-old Madison Turner, 16-year-old Braidon Berridge, 18-year-old Emily Pollock and 17-year-old Brendon Speechley were all selected to be part of this year’s Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge, a 10-day trek across the 155km Kokoda Trail.

All in it for different reasons, one unanimous response as to why they were taking part was for the challenge.

“It’s definitely going to be a mental, physical and emotional challenge,” Madison told the Weekender.

“I’m physically prepared but it will definitely challenge me in other ways,” Braidon added.

After finding out earlier this year that they would be spending their school holidays in Papua New Guinea, the teens say they hope to gain some perspective.

“Learning about the culture will be a big thing, and I think I’ll definitely have a sense of appreciation for what people went through,” Braidon said.

“I’m slightly nervous but it will be amazing to put the history books into perspective,” Annelise said.

Over several years, Penrith RSL Club and Penrith RSL sub-branch have partnered as major sponsors of the Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge, covering the cost of the airfare, accommodation and food expenses, reaching well over $6,000 per participant, and with so many participants this year, it’s a joint cost of over $36,000.

The group thanked the RSL for their contribution to the program, particularly Emily Pollock.

“I have to say a massive thank you to the RSL because I got accepted last year but got really sick – they’re letting me do it this year and they’ve been amazing about it,” she said.

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