A project that aims to create a greater sense of wellbeing in Cessnock's young people is underway.
The Confident Cubicles Project is a youth-led project in which students from approximately 20 public schools in Cessnock will design and paint positive affirmations to be attached to toilet doors at their schools.
The project is part of the Cessnock Place Plan Project, a NSW Government-funded, community-led initiative that aims to strengthen social housing communities through targeted projects tailored to their needs.
While targeted at young people who are at risk of disengagement from education, the Confident Cubicles Project has the potential to reach more than 6000 students across the Cessnock local government area.
Cessnock Place Plan Project senior project officer Melanie Mackie came across the idea on Facebook, from a school in America where teachers had come in during the holidays and decorated the toilet doors with positive affirmations.
"The local Cessnock community had identified mental health, particularly in young people, as being a priority in the area and I thought that a youth-led project would be a great way to promote a positive self-image and lead to a greater sense of wellbeing," Ms Mackie said.
Ms Mackie said while toilets doors are places students traditionally use for negative commentary, toilets are also places students access multiple times, go to escape, have time to think and see their image in mirrors.
She said it is anticipated that students taking part in the project will have an increase in wellbeing and hopefully a greater level of resilience to manage life's challenges.
"We have measured benchmark wellbeing data with the support of The University of Newcastle and will follow up towards the end of the year to see if there has been any changes," she said.
The Confident Cubicles Project has been a collaborative effort on many fronts - the Department of Communities and Justice provided funding for the paint and supported the Cessnock Men's Shed to assemble the 295 frame units for the paintings; the timber and frames were donated by Bunnings Cessnock, and the Department of Education has given in-kind support by embedding the project into classes.
The students at Congewai Public School have been so excited to take part in the project, they have even taken to making posters in their free time.
The school launched its project on August 22, with students dressing up for the occasion and displaying the works that will eventually be hung on the toilet doors.
Classroom teacher Leah Snaddon said the project has been a great experience for the students.
"I just think it's a fantastic idea for young people to investigate anything to do with a growth mindset because especially in our society there's so many things that can be overwhelming for children," she said.
"If they've got strategies to deal with things that can sometimes be overwhelming, they know how to become more resilient."
Ms Mackie said it has been "uplifting to work with such passionate students, teachers and principals in the Cessnock LGA".
"Beneath the statistics and data surrounding Cessnock, there is a deep sense of community spirit and pride that you don't often see in other communities," she said.
"As a former student of Bellbird Public School, I have an emotional investment in this project.
"It is really important for local young people and the broader community to realise the capability of our Cessnock kids and know that Cessnock students, past and present, can do great things."