PAINTING A FUTURE: Andres Grez, of Goonengerry Public School, broke down barriers with his vibrant artwork, when he participated in the ARTSmart program.
PAINTING A FUTURE: Andres Grez, of Goonengerry Public School, broke down barriers with his vibrant artwork, when he participated in the ARTSmart program. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Friends and a football give Andres new enthusiasm for school

ANDRES Grez, a now enthusiastic young boy whose family moved to Australia from Chile about three years ago, was once cripplingly shy, not willing to talk to anyone, and certainly not wanting to go to school.

A horrible experience at school in Chile led to the now 10-year-old not wishing to go to school when he first arrived in Australia, and so his mother Melissa home-schooled him.

But last year when Andres's mother started taking his younger brother to a playgroup at Goonengerry Public School once a week, Andres would go along as well, sitting quiet and alone until he was befriended by some of the schoolboys and was asked to play soccer with them.

As a true Chilean with a love of soccer, Andres stepped up and found making friends wasn't as hard as he thought. The formerly shy boy declared to his mother that he wanted to start going to school - at Goonengerry of course.

Eighteen months later, Andres is a changed boy, Goonengerry Public School principal Tracey Barnes said.

"Andres had lost faith in the school system," Mrs Barnes said.

"Yet once he realised that Goonengerry is a really creative learning environment and he was able to develop his art skills - not to mention play soccer with the other kids - that really boosted his confidence and made the transition back to school so much easier."

Andres said he loved his art. He used to draw back in Chile, but got into trouble as he used to draw in the blank spaces of his schoolbooks.

Andres, along with four of his classmates, had the chance to participate in the ARTSmart program in three days of intensive art creation at Byron Bay, where he made three colourful artworks he's now very proud of.

"I guess the beauty of ARTSmart is they get three days to start and finish," Mrs Barnes said.



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