Remember my previous post about STREAT, the social enterprise providing homeless youth with training in hospitality?

Well, the first intake of eight kids who were selected to participate in the 6 month traineeship have just graduated. I was honoured to be invited to their graduation at STREAT‘s offices at Donkey Wheel House, a heritage building with a vision to ‘provide an environment that will catalyse and support different thinking, with a particular focus on innovative leaders of change’. So far it’s also the home of another social enterprise Kinfolk Café and Hub Melbourne Incubator a shared workspace community, will open there from February 2011.

The interior dotted with roadsigns and vintage tram-rolls was designed by architect Guy Matthews and it reflects the building’s history as an old tramways station.  There’s creative use of plastic milk crates, as well as the usual tables and chairs. It’s a long way from STREAT‘s start in a single room.

The food at the graduation was provided by Original Foods, a sustainable catering company. What does this mean? I got a bit overwhelmed reading the  ‘Our vision‘ page of their website but it boils down to using whole grains, organic/free range ingredients, avoiding refined or overly processed foods and sourcing produce that’s locally and sustainably produced. If you care about none of those aspects of food, then let’s just say the food was delicious!

Nibbles included squares of flaky spanitopika, soft rice paper rolls with free range chicken and noodles and roasted kangaroo rolled in mountain pepper spices.

And check out one of the awesome raffle prizes – much better than a meat tray in my opinion!

Over the course of the evening I chatted to many people, including the STREAT founders Rebecca Scott and Kate Barelle and one of STREAT’s many supporters, Vicki Car, the head of millinery at the Australian Ballet.

Then the graduation started and it was quite an emotional experience, even for someone like me who didn’t know any of the students. It was obvious that the people who worked at STREAT were all very passionate about their role in helping young lives. When the kids accepted their certificates they each spoke of their thanks for the opportunities they’d been given after experiencing such hardship and poverty and they were all feeling positive for the future. I have to admit I got a bit teary…

Anyway, congratulations to everyone and I look forward to hearing more about STREAT’s future successes.

You can check out the official slide show of the graduation here.