A remarkable story of connection, compassion and community


At Maidens Park Primary School in Bunbury WA, Athena Sofilas, has been a dedicated volunteer with EdConnect Australia for over 11 years.

Athena is a mentor who spends a few hours each week pouring her kindness and wisdom into the lives of young students. She is an avid supporter of EdConnect’s mission to support students in WA schools, enhancing their well-being and equipping them with academic and life skills.

Athena’s journey began after she retired from a fulfilling 40-year career in retail and finance. With an interest in finding a rewarding way to give back to her community, she embraced the role of a school volunteer. One of the first students she encountered was a 9-year-old boy named Brock and this marked the beginning of a long-lasting bond.

“Athena is a mother figure to me, she is caring, helpful and I could talk to her about anything. She looked after me when I needed it, and she is always there,” said Brock.

At this time (Brock is now 22), the classroom felt like a battleground for Brock. He was experiencing bullying, feeling misunderstood by his teachers, and facing academic challenges. He was having a hard time and felt alone.

Mentoring sessions with Athena were an escape from the classroom, he felt safe and able to learn more. She offered a caring space where he could learn at his own pace and thrive. They played games, shared stories, and built a foundation of trust that would help to shape Brock’s future.

Athena’s mentorship wasn’t limited to academic help; she became a listening ear, a sounding board, and a motherly figure for Brock. In her, he found someone who truly cared, someone who believed in his potential.

After primary school and two years of mentoring with Athena, Brock completed high school. Now 22, the communication skills he honed during their sessions prove invaluable in his current job as a Networking and Technology Systems Administrator. The skills Athena nurtured included problem solving, writing and planning are now an integral part of his role.

Athena’s impact was evident on Brock’s 21st birthday. Brock’s father contacted Athena asking her to sign his birthday key as one of the special people in his life. It was a testament to the enduring connection they had forged together.

When asked about her motivation to continue mentoring, Athena’s response was simple yet profound: “I don’t need motivating, I feel awful if I can’t go to school, I don’t want to let the students down.”

And her advice to other mentors: “Enjoy the time with your student, listen to what they say. Play a game to break the ice, and the conversation will come.”

Athena and Brock’s story is a reminder that a simple commitment to be there for one student for one hour a week can positively impact lives and communities for generations to come.

EdConnect Australia trains and supports volunteers to work in local schools, providing a safety net for young people who might otherwise struggle to realise their potential – in school and life. It is Australia’s only intergenerational volunteering charity which operates within both primary and secondary schools.

For more information on our volunteering program click here, email edconnect@edconnect.org.au or call 1800 668 550.