Disadvantaged and disillusioned – why mentoring is the tool for creating change

Today we celebrate the annual National Mentoring Day to recognise and raise awareness of the enormous power and benefits of mentoring.  Here I will be talking about the importance of ‘early intervention’ to create successful personal and professional lives.  

It never ceases to amaze me how a parent can show such resilience and strength of character when their child’s life is cruelly cut short. Olympic sprinter Tyson Gay, showed just that after his 15 year-old daughter, Trinity, was shot and killed at a restaurant in the States earlier this month. Instead of calling for retribution, Tyson made it clear he didn’t want his daughter’s death to be in vain. His solution? More mentoring to address the problems and challenges young people face. In a touching statement, he said,

“We must come together as a community to protect each other, giving our young people the tools they need to resolve their conflicts and lead successful lives — the kind that Trinity was well on her way to living.”

And this is exactly what mentoring can provide.

Much of my work on mentoring programmes has focused specifically on improving career prospects of students and graduates, creating a more level playing field for those from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds. And I’ve seen the difference it can make, which I spoke about in a previous post on inequality and mentoring. This year, I am working on a project connecting BME students with alumni and professionals, so that the networks and opportunities exist for students to learn and be inspired by other success stories.

Career mentoring is no doubt powerful and has its place, and with the support of a professional and business mentor, I’ve witnessed university students turn their lives around and go on to achieve their full potential. But change can take time and early intervention is still desperately needed to empower, raise aspirations and give vulnerable young people in particular, a foundation for creating their own vision of success.

Mentoring provision for young people is well established, and I know there are many fantastic projects happening across the country.

One particular example is LifeLine Projects, a community-based training provider in East London which runs a programme called VIP mentoring – VIP stands for Vision, Identity and Purpose. They’ve worked with 1,300 young people in 50 schools, and their programme evaluation found that the students involved experience improvements in wellbeing, behaviour and school achievement. Group sessions also take place, and here are some of the young people they’ve worked with.

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(Photo credit: LifeLine Projects)

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(Photo credit: LifeLine Projects)

 

With the support of a mentor, a young person on one of their programmes was able to take a big step forward in his performance at school.

Here his mentor shares his thoughts,

“I have been working with the student on his attendance and motivation in school. In the beginning of our mentoring sessions he seemed very disengaged and unwilling and often said very little in our sessions. I started to use tools such as conversation cards to help prompt conversation. Towards the middle of our course of mentoring sessions, he started to open up more and disclose matters that he never confided to anyone. He told me that he is the main carer for his very poorly mother who is battling for her life from kidney failure and also the main carer to his older brother who is disabled and is in a wheelchair. He said this is the cause of his lack of motivation in his education, because he needs to be there for his mum and spend the time he has with her now before she dies. His dad is an alcoholic, and his sisters didn’t keep in touch with the family. After this he started coming to mentoring continuously, week after week, and used mentoring as a forum to talk about his issues.

Now he’s getting the help that he needs and his attendance and motivation have also improved. The school behavioural mentor has noticed a major difference in his motivation; he now makes intervention classes after school a priority and revises consistently for his GCSEs starting in May. His attendance at the beginning of the programme was 77% and now it is 90%.

In our last session he said to me:

Thank you soo much, you have no idea how much mentoring has helped me in my academics and even how to deal with my home life.  Having you to talk to has made me feel soo much better.’” [sic]

It’s exactly this kind of change and progression which I believe is crucial for enabling future career success.

For anyone who has a passion for making a difference and who has the time, please do get involved in any local or wider mentoring projects. Many schools, colleges, universities and community organisations run a range of schemes for different purposes. For the young person or adult struggling to cope, it’s the one thing that can put them back on track and give them a sense of hope for the future. Certainly LifeLine Projects is one opportunity and you can contact Nathan Singleton NathanSingleton@lifelineprojects.co.uk for more information or visit their website http://www.lifelineprojects.co.uk

 

 

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