Report: Ms Leptos

The COVID-19 pandemic has managed to put a spanner in every part of our lives – and it has certainly disrupted our students’ plans for community volunteering. The 2022 class has had to make many more calls before landing a position. The problems with community organisations delaying the start date for volunteers or closing their doors to them required some of the William Ruthven students to think more creatively. This was certainly the case with Ava. 

Ava approached a new Reservoir business, the Red Spoon Café in Macfadzean St. When I visited her to see how her volunteering was going, it was a wonderful surprise to see the business was run by an ex-student, Yianni Drizos. Yianni spent his early secondary school years at Lakeside Secondary and has many fond memories of his time there. He’s particularly grateful for the support he received from Assistant Principal, Anthony Stockwell. Yianni found it difficult to fit in at times, but rather than giving up on him, Mr Stockwell helped Yianni find another school where he completed his education. 

“Stocky and the other teachers really looked after me,” Yianni says, with considerable gratitude.

From school, Yianni went on to complete a TAFE course in building and construction, but did not eventually work in the industry. Keen to set himself up financially, Yianni took a job with transport giant Toll. Always looking for a good fit, Yianni left the transport industry and went back to study to complete real estate qualifications. There was always something in the back of Yianni’s mind that drew him to hospitality. His family had run hospitality businesses both in the city and in Brunswick. 

“It was something my family was good at,” he reflects. Like many migrant families, these businesses became family affairs and it was inevitable that Yianni worked in them and picked up many skills.

With a strong entrepreneurial streak, Yianni was always on the watch for a business opportunity. Unexpectedly, the premises in Mcfadzean St came up for sale, and it was perfectly positioned, with wide footpaths that would be perfect for outdoor dining. The Drizos family quickly made an offer and a new family business began. 

Finally, his building and construction skills came to the fore as Yianni converted the cramped corner shop into an open and airy café and kitchen. Renovator, chef, waiter, he turned his hand to all parts of the business and in time, he took over running it. 

With strong roots in the Reservoir area and links to the local schools, Yianni did not hesitate to support the volunteering program when approached by Ava for a position. 

“Ava is really responsible and reliable,” he enthuses. “She turns her hand to anything and nothing is too much trouble.” 

When Yianni found himself short staffed on a recent weekend, he offered Ava paid work. 

“She had no experience in taking table orders, but she was able to step up and she was fantastic.”

Ava is experiencing many of the benefits of volunteering work. She is already building a network of people who can give her a very positive work reference and is developing a wide range of practical skills that can be used in a range of employment positions. Ava is getting a wonderful grounding in the way that workplaces operate and the expectations of employers. 

Balancing her academic studies, her volunteering and her paid work, she is sharpening her organisational skills. Ava is truly preparing for the world beyond school.