At the meetings that decided where I would live, there were regularly physical fights amongst my family. I still got sent back to them each time.
My mum struggled with alcoholism when I was growing up, but I was only a child and really didn’t understand it. I was put into kinship care with my Gran when I was 8 years old, and was also split up from my sisters who lived with my other Gran. I couldn’t see them without official supervision or notice.
When I started high school, I didn’t feel like I could explain my situation to anyone. I was falling behind in my subjects because I brought all the stresses from home with me to school. And how could I tell people I couldn’t do it? It felt embarrassing to share that I lived in such a bad environment that even doing a bit of homework was too hard. I just didn’t have the ability to talk about it. So I acted out. School was a place for me to relax and I really didn’t engage the first couple years. I was on behaviour cards, sent out of classes, hopping up on the tables. And the other students would laugh so it encouraged me to do it more. I didn’t get that kind of positive reaction to anything else I was doing.
I actually had my head screwed on outside of school, I was an anti-racism ambassador and helped my community. But in school, even though I knew education was a route out, people kept telling me I was too stupid for it and I started to believe it. I didn’t think I was capable.
The first meeting I had with my mentor was a little awkward. I had only had one positive adult in my life before that, my Gran. And so I couldn’t just immediately believe that this person, this ‘mentor’, cared about me. I started getting a bit more comfortable as we met one or two more times, but then she started asking me about things that I had told her in weeks prior. The fact that someone actually remembered what I had told them and cared enough to ask me about it was incredible. That’s what made me realise she cared about me. I hadn’t experienced that before.
I suffered from such a lack of self-esteem but my mentor really instilled self belief and confidence in me. Just by listening. At this point I wasn’t receiving any support from the system, but even in the past when people were supposed to be helping me they didn’t show up. And then here was my mentor, who, week after week, would.
We’d sit and go through things for University. She talked me through all of the pathways that I could take. No one had spoken to me about my future before or told me the different routes I could take to get there. After that I got my head down, I stopped being a class clown. When I met my mentor I was still on my behaviour card. She kept me in check without being a dick about it.
Around a year after getting a mentor I passed some prelims. I wasn’t expecting to pass any, and my grade predictions were outright failures. When I got As, I could start to see everything that was possible for me.
Obviously mentoring didn’t improve everything. By this time I was getting on better at home, I had done my best to adapt to the chaos of it all but my Mum and younger sister were still really not getting on. My younger sister ended up going into residential care which was hard, and there were still a lot of things going on at home that made the rest of my life really difficult to fully engage with. But other things got better. I wasn’t in the house as much anymore because when I got more confidence I started to get a bigger support network. But then exam time came around.
I had always wanted to study law but part of me felt it ‘knew’ I could never get the grades for it. That I was too stupid. And chasing this dream I didn’t think I could achieve was so stressful. I had to stop part way through my English exam because I was so overwhelmed that I got an awful nosebleed.
When I got my exam results, the first person I told was my mentor. I was in Wales with my friend and her Grandpa on a little trip to get away from home. My best friend was always considered ‘smarter’ than me… but my grades smashed hers! I got the highest score in the year for Higher English, and I had gotten all the grades I needed to study the course I wanted to. I couldn’t believe it, but my mentor could. They showed me what I was capable of, and I owe them so much.
Now I’m at university studying law, something everyone except my mentor told me I wouldn’t be able to accomplish. It’s great to be on the right path in life. I’ve also got a new home, and not once have the police been to my door.
I’m studying criminal law now, but in another life, without MCR Pathways, instead of studying the law I could have been breaking it.
Mentoring is a challenge, but my achievements are your reward. It’s worth it.