Steph Cooke stands at a farm gate and smiles at the camera.

The NSW Government has announced a new program aimed at boosting the aspirations and leadership capabilities of young people in rural and regional schools.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said the NSW Rural Youth Ambassador 2020 Pilot Program will immerse 28 Year 11 students from Willyama to Warialda in six months of leadership development, advocacy and learning.

Luke Dowell and Blake George, both from Cootamundra High School have been nominated as delegates.

“Inspiring and sustaining the leaders of the future is one of the most valuable contributions of schools. I am so proud of Luke and Blake and know they will be fantastic representatives for their communities. I can’t wait to catch up with them and hear their ideas,” Ms Cooke said.

“Rural and regional communities offer a range of opportunities for young people to exercise leadership, but this initiative goes further by offering some of those young leaders the opportunity to share ideas, engage with successful business and thought leaders from rural communities, explore opportunities with key decision makers and energise each other.

“Each of the Rural Youth Ambassadors will emerge with enhanced leadership skills and knowledge, plus stronger confidence in their future and a network of peers with whom they share interests and aspirations.”

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell and Minister for Regional Youth Bronnie Taylor welcomed the initiative, which is a collaboration between the Government, Aurora College and the Country Education Partnership.

“This pilot will give these students the opportunity to interact with experienced local leaders and learn how they thrive where they live,” Ms Mitchell said.

 “By sharing feedback on their own school experiences, they will also play a role in helping to shape future rural and regional education for their peers,” Mrs Taylor said.

The NSW Rural Youth Ambassador 2020 Pilot Program will commence next term with the young leaders participating in online forums, discussions and working groups ahead of a planned three-day forum in term four.