Penny, a retired administrator in occupational health, has been mentoring at Our Lady and St Patrick High School in Dumbarton since 2019.
After retiring three years ago, Penny wanted to find a volunteer opportunity where she could make a difference, but nothing was grabbing her attention. That was until Penny saw a Facebook post from West Dunbartonshire Council about an upcoming MCR Info Session and she decided to attend:
“When I attended, it was great to see so many positive people there. I had some questions about whether or not young people would need a mentor at my age, but my fears were allayed after speaking to some former mentees who were now in college. They reassured me that people on the programme need mentors of all ages.”
What motivated Penny to become a mentor was the experience she had being around her grandchildren and being fascinated with the teenage way of thinking:
“One of the main things which inspired me to become a mentor was how much I enjoy spending time with teenagers. They feel like they’re so important and funny, and I have teenage grandchildren of my own and I just love how sure they are of life, when they’ve so much more to experience.
“I think with my grandchildren now being teenagers, I’ve got that experience that I can pass on to my mentee. She doesn’t have a grandmother, but I feel like she now does because I have this great relationship with her.”
After completing the preparation stages of the mentor journey, Penny was matched with S*, a third year pupil and, in their first meeting, they found a connection straight away. Since then their relationship has flourished:
“When I first met my young person, she was very chatty and we hit it off right away, even though I was nervous. There were no awkward silences and we spoke about anything and everything.
“I feel, as we’ve got to know each other a bit more, she’s come out of her shell and grown up. When we first met, she was originally going to leave school at the end of fourth year, but is now staying on for fifth year and that’s amazing! Prior to lockdown, we had a serious chat about life and things and I think the fact that she sat there and listened was a huge step forward.”
Despite working in an industry for over 25 years and helping to raise 5 grandchildren, Penny is still learning and gaining new experiences through mentoring and is able to look at things from a different perspective:
“I think the main thing I get from mentoring is insight into a different way of living. I have 5 grandchildren and, to be mentoring someone who has grown up in different circumstances to what I’m used to experiencing with my grandkids, it makes me wonder ‘how did you manage to cope with this at such a young age?’ She’s such a strong person and I’m delighted to have an impact on her life. I get a huge amount of pleasure just sitting down, each week, with someone who is basically my pal. It’s amazing!”
Penny has had an incredibly rewarding relationship with her mentee and she encourages anyone and everyone to get involved!
“Go and do it! It’s the most enthralling thing you’ll ever do in your life. If you can fit it into your weekly schedule, you should! It doesn’t hurt and it’s a great thing getting to know a young person who may not know where they’re going in life or what their possibilities are. I love doing it and I’m sure there are so many others out there who feel the exact same. I get so excited even just seeing her when I make my way to the meetings. It’s just incredible!”
Do you have time to give just one hour a week to create a wonderful relationship with a young person like Penny has? #BeTheBridge between a young person’s talent and opportunities and become a mentor today!