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Johnathan Thurston stuns students at Woodridge High with a visit – and 60 Minutes gets in on the act

Published on 5 Nov 2018

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A group of 180 students at Woodridge State High School recently attended an unscheduled assembly where they were hit with a triple surprise none could have guessed was coming.

The students had been taking part in football legend Johnathan Thurston’s JT Succeed Program, an initiative of his JT Academy.

“The students were called to an assembly where we played them a video JT had made thanking them for being a part of the JT Succeed program which we had done last semester,” Woodridge High’s Employment Connections Coach Rhiannon Parsons explained.

“And then without any of the kids knowing, he came to visit us. The kids were so excited. I’m very pleased I don’t need to keep the secret anymore because it was so hard to not let on that JT was coming to the school.

“It was brilliant the kids were able to meet with him and talk with him. JT has inspired a lot of kids through the JT Succeed Program and this has meant a lot to our students.”

There were TV cameras at the school filming what the students were told was material for the JT Academy chronicling a visit from the Academy’s General Manager, Samantha Johnson, who had previously spoken at the school as part of the JT Succeed Program.

What they didn’t know was that the television cameras were part of a 60 Minutes film crew that had been travelling with the footy star for a segment which aired in October 21.

“The kids didn’t know I was going to be here and they had no idea the cameras were here for 60 Minutes so that was a lot of fun,” JT said. “It was so good to be able to come out and surprise these kids with a visit. It is one of the best parts of my job with the JT Academy.

“The students at Woodridge High have been taking part in the JT Succeed program where we talk about self-belief, courage and confidence; how to find them and how to use them. The program is an intensive employment program designed after industry consultation to give young people who want to work, the edge they need to gain and maintain employment.

“I have been told the 1,400 students at Woodridge State high come from more than 60 cultural backgrounds. And the thing is, the message is the same regardless of what that background is.

“The JT Succeed Program looks at a wide range of subjects and importantly includes a focus on building self-confidence. Self-confidence is something that everybody of every age, in every area can use more of.

“We’ve got a big bag of tips and advice, including some useful activities that participants can use and put into play on a daily basis to increase and build their confidence.

“We also encourage a change of mindset. We love to empower courage with our participants and give them the self-belief to put their hand up for future employment opportunities. We’re all about encouraging our participants to build their aspirations and achieve their goals.”

JT told students he receives a report about every school visit undertaken by staff at the Academy as part of the JT Succeed program and that he had seen the social media work students at Woodridge High produced as part of the first visit to the school from the Academy.

“We are hoping that the Academy will be able to reach as many young Australians as possible to equip them with the tools needed to help them find meaningful employment,” JT said. “The idea of being courageous, having self -belief and being confident can be scary, I know.

“My message is don’t be scared of failing, be more scared of not giving it a go. I want to encourage as many youth as I can to keep turning up to school and to keep believing in themselves.

“And for those who may not have access to school, or who just don’t fit with the school system, there are other ways of getting the skills and qualifications you need to get a job. Don’t give up. Let us help you if we can.”

Rhiannon said she knew the messages being shared by the JT Succeed Program would resonate with students at the school and that was why the school became involved with the JT Academy.

“We know Johnathan Thurston is a major role model for the majority of our student population, and he has built such a great reputation for himself that we knew it would be a great program that our students would be excited to be a part of,” she said.

“We knew these messages were going to be well received by our students who follow Johnathan Thurston’s career, but I found that all students were able to take away valuable knowledge and insight that will be useful during their schooling years and beyond.

“Our ambition for involvement in JT Succeed was to help students to feel empowered and confident about employment, and leave with a sense of knowing that they really do have the potential to follow their dreams and that’s exactly what happened.”

If you would like more information on the JT Academy, visit the website or contact


Johnathan Thurston Academy pays the deepest respect to the Traditional Custodians of Country across Australia. We acknowledge and thank our Elders who demonstrated over 60,000 years of sustainable Indigenous business and ask them to guide us back on track to a more prosperous and purposeful future.

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