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Mentor Support Network appoints new chair


Mentor Support Network (MSN) Patron Melinda Smith has paid tribute to retiring chair Judy Hart for her selfless efforts over the past 24 months.

The popular leader decided to stand down from the role due to increasing family commitments and travel to Sydney.

Her replacement will be Julie Rich, a senior leader and executive with three decades of experience across the private, government, property and tertiary education sectors.

“Judy’s worked diligently to ensure the organisation focussed on its responsibility to assist financially disadvantaged young students to complete their studies through a scholarship program and associated support,” Ms Smith said.

“MSN has increased its output in recent years and, next month, will be presenting 47 grants to pupils, who have been nominated by teaching staff at regional high schools, TAFE colleges and vocational institutions in the region.

“Judy played an integral part in that.”

A retired pharmacist, Ms Hart’s been involved in community volunteering for many years and said the past two had seen MSN focus on provision of educational scholarships although not losing contact with its mentor support role.

“I wish to thank MSN’s hard-working committee, which continues to develop partnerships with the corporate sector, but also thank our strong network of volunteers who do such a marvellous job in assisting financially disadvantaged young people in the Hunter,” she said.

“I have a firm belief in the value of mentoring and educational scholarships, which allow youngsters to finish their schooling or education.

“I’ve been delighted to be involved with Mentor Support Network.”

The Newcastle and Hunter-based not-for-profit elected Ms Rich to the position at its 2024 Annual General Meeting at the weekend.

She’s the principal of Compose Consulting, which offers leadership coaching for emerging, middle and senior managers and also strategic advisory counsel on program governance frameworks, business cases, workshop facilitation and organisational strategy reviews.

“I’m very happy to be offered the opportunity of stepping into the MSN role as it complements a lot of my existing interests,” Ms Rich said.

“I am passionate about economic diversification and social prosperity in the Hunter, the value of education and place making.

“I’m hoping my involvement and network of positive relationships with a range of community, business and industry groups throughout the region and beyond will be an advantage to MSN.”

Ms Rich also volunteers her time as a mentor with the Mentor Walks Program, as chair of the Hunter Chapter of the Property Council of Australia and as an NSW Divisional Council Member of the Property Council.

MSN is a dynamic organisation that assists young students experiencing significant socio-economic difficulties or family challenges in the region.

Established in 2002 and incorporated in 2005, its primary purpose is to be a successful not-for-profit group that offers relevant programs (for example, financial scholarships, mentoring assistance) that allow disadvantaged pupils in the Hunter the opportunity to complete their studies.

In essence, MSN strives to remove inequality for students who have proven potential but who are held back by financial drawbacks.

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