‘Gr8 Mates Rox!’ – the power of youth mentoring

‘Gr8 Mates Rox!’ – the power of youth mentoring

“Gr8 Mates Rox!” wrote a student participating in the Gr8 Mates school based youth mentoring program when the first surveys of the trial program were carried out. How positive is that, especially coming from a student who was experiencing low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence when she embarked on her mentoring journey. While there were a few wobbles during the early days of the program as a result of some transient students, the program did settle down and became a wonderful journey of self-empowerment and building relationships between young people and their volunteer adult mentors. On one occasion the mentors from one of the programs accompanied their mentees to a local Careers Market where they had the opportunity to visit a variety of stalls covering many possible careers, places for further study, Apprenticeship opportunities and lots more. Approximately 6,600 students passed through this event over two days. It was easy for some students to waste the opportunity, perhaps even feel overwhelmed by all the information on offer to them, though this was not the case in the situations where mentors accompanied their mentees. One mentor assisted a student with the development of a career plan, offering extra time to take the student to visit a friend of hers to chat about the career this young student had expressed an interest in pursuing. On another evening a mentor accompanied her mentee to the student’s subject selection evening at the student’s school and, judging from the emails that were exchanged after that particular evening, this experience further cemented the mentoring relationship. Another mentor was planning to introduce his mentee to...
Why teenagers need sleep!

Why teenagers need sleep!

Do you have a teenage child? Are you mentoring a teenager? How many hours sleep does that young person have EVERY night? Rule of thumb is that adolescents require 9 hours sleep every night during these critical years of growth and while the brain is developing.I remain continually puzzled that so many teenagers and their parents seem reluctant to ensure that these young people have a minimum of 9 hours sleep every night. More and more research points to the necessity of this, as puberty is kicking in and the brain is at an important stage of its developmental journey. The brain needs sleep to dispose of unimportant information, lay down new learning and to process new information. It needs sleep to regulate emotions. Basically, the brain needs sleep to grow, change and re-energise so it can function properly during the following day. Indeed, scientists have learnt that what our brain learns during the day is CONSOLIDATED during sleep. Author and brain researcher, Nicola Morgan, says there is more and more evidence now suggesting that our sleeping brains practise the things we do while we are awake. She describes how REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement sleep), during which time our eyelids are flattering, happens at certain stages during the sleep cycle, particularly when we are experiencing deep sleep and dreaming. Research is now suggesting that REM sleep is particularly important for memory and learning. During adolescence changes to the brain do affect the biological clock, a cluster of neurons that sends signals throughout the body and control fundamentally all of the internal operations, one of which is sleep.  MELATONIN, the...
Early lessons learnt or reinforced in setting up a youth mentoring program

Early lessons learnt or reinforced in setting up a youth mentoring program

Are you involved in setting up a youth mentoring program? Are there days you feel overwhelmed? I wrote down some thoughts when I was setting up from scratch the Gr8 Mates school-based youth mentoring program.There were ongoing lessons being learnt on the journey. What follows are some of the lessons I learnt: Make sure the program is internationally credible, which requires a Policies and Procedures Manual. There are some good examples of these on internationally credible youth mentoring websites. Develop a budget and have a plan as to how the program will roll out. Gr8 Mates had a possible 5 year budget plan which was continually being revised as the program was being developed. It added credibility to the program when approaching potential donors. Develop the program slowly. Don’t try to make it too big too fast. A quality program will take time to develop. I rewrote of the Policies and Procedures Manual within the first three to six months of launching the program. Think about evaluation all the time. I recorded ‘every’ inquiry about the program and also knew how most of the people contacting me had heard about the program. I evaluated the mentor training, the mentee training and the mentor/mentee matching session. Keep building partnerships and networks within the local and wider community eg, businesses; University of the 3rd Age; faith institutions; Sport Clubs and so on.. Make the training free wherever possible – after all, the mentors are volunteering their time. The host school contributed a small amount for each participating student and this covered most of the mentor’s training accreditation fee. We covered the...
How will Artificial Intelligence impact young lives?

How will Artificial Intelligence impact young lives?

How do you think Artificial Intelligence will impact your life? How do you think Artificial Intelligence will impact your relationships? These are interesting questions to discuss with an adolescent mentee, especially at a time when we are continually being told that the digital age will see many current jobs becoming obsolete during the next few years. A significant contribution a volunteer adult mentor can make to the life of an adolescent mentee is to build a web of protective factors or characteristics around the young person that will reduce the negative impact of stressful situations and problems, thus fostering resiliency.Some ways a mentor can do this would include the following six strategies which, when combined, are likely to see the development of positive self-concepts, connection to school, improved academic results, respect for authority and a more resilient young person. I can vouch for this from my mentoring, teaching and coaching experiences. Provide unconditional caring, support and encouragement. Let mentees hear the message “You matter!” Catch them being good and acknowledge their efforts. Increase bonding. Strengthen the connections between mentees and pos­itive adults and peers; and between mentees and any positive social activity (eg, sports, art, music, writing, dance, community service, reading or learn­ing). Mentees with strong, positive bonds are less likely to be involved in high risk behaviours than those without such bonds. Set clear, consistent boundaries. Mentees need clear and consistent rules or boundaries (eg, family rules and norms, school policies and procedures, communi­ty laws and norms) within which they are encouraged to become the best they can be. These must be clearly spelt out and consistent­ly enforced....
Surfing through life as a Mentor?!

Surfing through life as a Mentor?!

“How can I help you?” That’s probably the question I ask more than any other when someone approaches me for a chat. It leads to great discussions which are followed by a look at prioritizing which inevitably takes us to goal setting. And, if this involves mentoring an adolescent, I am quick to share the three key points to move them towards a balanced and healthy lifestyle: “How many hours sleep a night are you having?” (Should be 9 hours every night) “How many hours of exercise each week are you having?” (Should be a minimum of 2.5 to 3 hours) “Are you eating a healthy breakfast?” (If not, early academic time will be a waste of energy, as the brain will not be functioning at full throttle!) These are well researched facts now and, while there will always be exceptions to the rule, when mentees are able to tick these three boxes, they will automatically notice the difference in their lives. I was thinking a short while ago, while I was writing my Mentoring Minutes 2 minutes a day Podcasts, of the conversation I had with Rachel (not her real name) when she asked if she could have a chat with me. “How can I help you?” I asked. “I want you to mentor me. I need help with my planning and organization. Last year I lived on five hours sleep a night, I pushed myself so hard to achieve my academic goals and make my parents happy. I achieved them all but I don’t want to live like this anymore. In fact, I’m not going to live...
Drone parents or empowering Mentors for our adolescents?

Drone parents or empowering Mentors for our adolescents?

Thinking again about how different life is today from when I was a child. What can you remember about your childhood? I remember we climbed trees, created our own games indoors and outdoors, rode our bicycles, without helmets, to the local Park where we played on the variety of playground equipment available – Jungle Jims, seesaws, swings, roundabouts – caught tadpoles in the stream running through the Park, all without any adult supervision. We walked or rode to school without adult supervision and caught public transport, even in the evenings, without adult supervision. We jumped into a teacher’s car or another parent’s car if we were going to a sports match without any need of permission slips signed by our parents; we listened to the Top 20 hits of the week on a Sunday night from Radio Lourenco Marques (I was raised in Cape Town); we watched the international sports folk practising and mingled with them after and before matches, with no security guards evident; we listened to the radio, as we did not have Television – Kit Grayson Rides the Range or something like that; Squad Cars; Pick-a-Box, a Quiz Show; Squad Cars, a Detective program; Mark Saxon and Sir Gay Gromuko or something similar …….  yes, those were the days and how different from life today. The rare Computers were massive machines in large office areas with punch cards …. and so I could go on. These thoughts occurred after I read an interesting Blog by Occupational Therapist, Victoria Prooday, The silent tragedy affecting today’s children, which has been read by over 10 million people during the...