Edens Landing State School teacher Leo Hopkinson has been recognised for his work running an inspirational hiking challenge for his students and the school community. Known as the Kokoda Youth Challenge, Leo has been running the school’s involvement in the program for many years, giving up his weekends to prepare primary students for the feat.
Leo has been teaching for 14 years around South East Queensland. He says he most enjoys providing real-life activities – getting kids out of the classroom and involved in hands-on activities – to give students a practical perspective on what they are learning.
The youth challenge program he runs for his school sees participants hiking some of the harshest terrain on the East Coast of Australia to raise funds for the Kokoda Youth Foundation. Students embody the spirit of Kokoda, by walking in memory of Australian servicemen in World War Two. Leo gives students of many ages and backgrounds – including students who struggle academically and behaviourally – the opportunity to take part, building their character in a way the classroom cannot.
With assistance from colleagues and parents during the hikes, Leo can laugh with students and support them to succeed. The focus of the hikes over the five-month program is to build students’ self-belief and leadership qualities to encourage commitment, resilience, and mateship. His proudest accomplishment running the program has been all his teams finishing the 18km and 30km hikes in the Brisbane Kokoda Challenge. He’s also proud of having the only primary school team to finish the 48km Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge this year.
Leo and his team are said to be improving students’ physical fitness while building future leaders through positive influence. Another local primary school also trains with Leo’s team to make sure their students are prepared for the challenge. Leo says having worked in several schools in the Logan area, he’s found his skills and philosophy have been useful in changing kids’ mindsets and resilience. His work has seen him awarded the 2019 Kokoda Youth Foundation Volunteer of the Year and Nova 106.9’s Local Legend in 2018.In his nomination, colleagues wrote:
“Leo has inspired many to do much and the world is a better place because of this.”