It has always been my ambition to work with children and young people, however the opportunity never presented itself until Dr Graham Connelly introduced me to the University Intergenerational Mentoring Programme, which I was delighted to participate in.
I was introduced to my mentee as she was ending her second year at high school and agreed to meet on a weekly basis. This was important to allow my mentee time to get to know who I was and what my role was going to be, as there may already be a large number of adults around this young person impacting and influencing in a number of different ways. I am confident we now have a strong, healthy relationship and that she knows I only have her best interests at heart, as she grows and progresses through her schooling.
My perception of a mentor is someone who listens to, nurtures, supports and encourages a young person to enable them to strive and be the best they can be both academically and personally. To break down invisible barriers, source and create introductions to the right people both personally and academically, ask the questions that need to be asked or give them the encouragement and support to ask the questions themselves. Minimise any fear and let them know they have rights. A mentor should be someone who opens the door, holds the mentees hand and guides them through to the other side.
A mentor must also work in partnership with the school to ensure you are enhancing the hard work they already do. It is crucial the carer is also included and informed of what you are working on and how you have the young person’s interest at heart.
Along with my personal experience of looked after children within my own family circle and the role of a kinship carer, I believe my experience as a parent and manager along with my counselling skills have all assisted me in my role as a mentor, not to mention my role within CELCIS and the many talented, knowledgeable people I have met and who have regularly assisted me through the process.
The young person I am mentoring is focused on her career path as a lawyer and together we have researched the grades required from secondary education, looked at both the Further and Higher Educational routes to reaching her goal, along with relevant funding and scholarships available. I was able to assist my mentee in the final aspect of subject choice for S3/4 by sourcing advice from the Law Department in relation to access requirements and clarifying the selection process.
Along with organising visits to CELCIS and some partner organisations, going forward, we will arrange a visit to the University’s Law Dept to gain a sense of how things run along with meeting key staff and students as well as continuing to assist my mentee by widening her options and looking at a number of other career paths.
My mentee has also attended the University of Strathclyde summer school programme and is part of their S3 Focus West Group.
Education is an extremely important tool and it is one of the key tangible things we can ensure our children have as they enter into adulthood and the world of business. I realise how vulnerable these young people are and also how complex and challenging their life’s can be at times. I won’t accept second best for my child, so why should this or any other child be different. These are our children and we only want the best for them and I see a mentor’s role as that one to one support to assist this to happen.
I feel honoured this young woman has accepted me into her life and it is a privilege to know I could potentially be part of that core group around her who can make things happen and help her realise her full potential.