I often ask adults the question: when you were a teenager, who, other than your parents and friends, had a significant or POSITIVE influence on your life?
Sometimes, sadly, people were living in homes that were not functioning too well for a variety of reasons, so positive parental influence might have been lacking. No matter what the situation, so many young people will talk about a teacher or a Coach, a person who cared about them and believed in them.
The world mourns the death of many innocent lives and the injuries others have sustained as a result of the bomb blast in Manchester earlier this week, though we must never forget the tens of thousands, maybe millions of young people living in poverty or traumatized by war or some other traumatic event in their lives. It has spurred me to action.
For many years I have been thinking of a way to inspire young people to become the best they can be, the quiet ones who retreat into their shell, who perhaps lack confidence, who need to be reminded that they can take charge of their lives and being shown how to do this. I am working on developing an App, which will have to be free, with an inspiring message each day; not a well known quote, but something more personal, which links to common themes linked to adolescent development and resiliency and which I have written from my experiences working with young people for over 40 years – can’t hide my age! I actually began this project about 15 years ago and there have been a number of rewrites!
I have written the 365 messages to inspire adolescents, have had the concept endorsed by some of the leading Australian psychologists and family therapists, as well as some global experts in other parts of the world and now need to set out to work out a way to action this ‘dream’ 🙂
What continued to inspire and motivate me were a some quotes from 14 and 15 year-old students who participated in the GR8 Mates school-based mentoring program a while ago. Most of these students were showing signs of disconnecting from school before they joined the program, many of them in single parent families and from low socio-economic, often high risk environments.
All the mentors of these students were thoroughly trained and received weekly encouragement and guidance when they were actively involved in the mentoring journey. The focus of the 6 to 9 month mentoring relationship – a pity we did not have more time – was on connecting, sharing ideas about goals, with the mentees setting some personal targets which they worked at with the support of their mentors; looking at possible career options and researching information on careers that interested the mentee and, where possible, the mentor taking the mentee to visit a Company or organization of interest to that young person from a career perspective.
As I read through the quotes below, I was again struck by the importance of RELATIONSHIPS in these young people’s lives, FACE TO FACE RELATIONSHIPS, not online communication and the positive outcomes: someone to talk to; helping with planning, organization and management of time; a constant encouragement and support …..
With the development of the digital footprint, it is so easy for us to forget that the most meaningful relationships are developed around three key words: RESPECT, SINCERITY (AUTHENTICITY) and EMPATHY, qualities that are shouting out to me when I read these quotes:
“[My mentor] has helped me through good times and bad and has helped me cope. She has also helped me with what my goal is in life and things I need to do to achieve becoming a teacher…[the program] has heaps of different aspects and it is brilliant …it is perfect the way it is.”
“[My mentor] gave me a lot of confidence. He told me about my self-worth and my values. I was extremely lucky to get him as a mentor. I liked that I had someone to talk to whenever I needed to, through email and face to face. I realized throughout the journey my career goals and opportunities.”
“My mentor has helped me analyse myself and the careers I’m interested in and helped me to find better time managing skills. I liked having someone to talk to about life in general, and having someone who can relate to certain things has been helpful and fun.”
“She has really helped me with managing my time. She has also been a great help with finding information about my career and how to achieve it. I enjoyed the whole thing.”
“She has helped me find what I’d like to do when I’m older and set a goal, as well as helping me find work experience at good places 🙂”
“Because I am 100% sure about where I’m going in life and have gained many valuable skills that will help me achieve my goals… gained a friend.”
“It was just good to be able to talk to someone about anything.”
“He has helped sort through my life and make right decisions when it comes to work related things. Very awesome person. Really been good with him.”
“[She] helped me gain self-confidence, realize what I wanted to do in the future, how I was going to get there and has helped me achieve my goals.”
“She told me things I just wanted to hear.”
“Helped find the jobs I like …talking about jobs…”
“I now understand what I want to do in life…I enjoyed it all.”
“She has opened my mind to the opportunities and still has more I’d love to learn from her. She took me to a Career Psychologist showing me what I am best at. She has helped open my mind 🙂 …it is a good program.”
“[She] has helped me become more confident in myself and I hope that I have made a positive impact on her life as well. I wish her all the best …talking about each other’s lives, resolving issues and having a good laugh. I liked everything. I think it was a great idea. Thank you for allowing me to have this experience.”
“Helped me with job opportunities eg, work experience.”
“She has helped me write my Resume. She organized work experience. Good rapport.”
“[She] has helped me with a lot of things…having someone to talk to.”
“He has been there if I needed to talk …make it last longer.”
“[She] has taught me to control my anger and shown me the importance of a good career.”
I remember that one of these mentors went through personal difficulties a few years after this mentoring relationship began. On Facebook the mentee, by then a young adult, posted a comment to the effect that just as her mentor had been there for her during her confusing adolescent years, now she would be there to support her mentor.
The seeds of the Spirit of Mentoring had been successfully sown during these relationships.
Jean Rhodes, a psychology Professor at the University of Massachusettes in Boston, recently shared an article written by three of her colleagues in her blog, The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring. It places a specific focus on what effective mentoring of marginalized youth might look like and is both interesting and challenging.
What this article and the above quotes continue to tell me is how important it is for our young people to have adult mentors in their lives.
Have you remembered who, other than your parents, made a significant and POSITIVE impact on your life when you were a teenager?
And, if you have any knowledge about creating an App and might want more information about my idea, please be in touch.
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organiser, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can join him on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook or see his daily posts on Instagram or contact him through his YES! website