47. Preparing for closure and some public speaking

The first GR8 MATES program will be concluding in a couple of weeks. One of our mentors gave a brief presentation on public speaking to the students, as each will be sharing something about their mentoring experience in the final Celebration of Learning event. 6 Hot Tips – Public Speaking can be found in the Peer Mentor section of the website (http://www.yess.co.nz/) . After the presentation, mentors had a few minutes to chat about what they and their mentees would say when our video crew came around to interview them. The video crew are made up of Year 11 students (penultimate year of school). I met with them an hour earlier and told them of my plans to have a three minute video clip for the GR8 MATES website. During the mentoring session they visited the mentoring pairs and each participant shared something in 30 – 45 seconds. Next week the mentees will be completing their on-line Student Performer and the video team will film some of that as well as the Celebration of Learning. I am hoping that they will end up making two or three video clips we could use on a variety of occasions :-). Anyway, I was chatting to a mentor and a mentee prior to the video clip being shot. We were talking about the Celebration of Learning and Simon, the mentee (not his real name), was saying that he intended to ‘wing it’ ie, make up his speech on the day. His mentor and I smiled. When it came to filming Simon, he froze! Highly amusing and I hope he has learnt something...

46. Expansion plans – doing the hard yards!!

I am also at the point where we have to kickstart a major campaign to raise funds if we wish to see GR8 MATES going beyond the pilot stage. It is a tough call, as the demand for mentors of these young people is considerably greater than many people realise. And, as the economy starts slowing down and parents experience more problems paying the mortgage, people are made redundant etc., this, too will impact on these young lives. Australia has been experiencing boom times in recent years. One is not allowed to mention the words ‘ possible recession’, but I am a realist and I can already see the signs – people battling to meet mortgage payments, more smaller businesses closing down, others cutting back their workforce or not employing new staff when others leave etc. Western Sydney, where GR8 MATES operates, is an area with many, many of these battlers. In addition, each time I enter schools to give presentations on career topics, as well as to supervise the mentoring programs, I am struck by the number of young people clearly lacking significant adults in their lives, parents with effective parenting skills etc. and this is becoming quite a burden. So if we can create an army of trained volunteer adult mentors, we will be able to encourage more and more young people to keep going after their dreams, learning how to make some sacrifices to reach these dreams, understanding the need to work hard and to keep on keeping on and so much more. The Steering Committee is coming together slowly but surely and I expect things...

44. OooH! Aaah! OW! WOW! moments this week

What a week it has been for GR8 MATES. Plenty of potentially positive events, some wobbles, some heavy reflection ….. no rest for the wicked running a youth mentoring program. Our newly established programs are still trying to find their legs. Mentors are being incredibly patient, tolerant and understanding. With a couple of mentees in one program ‘appearing’ to be truanting from school, it makes it difficult to involve them fully in the mentoring program and to expect busy mentors to hang around waiting for something to happen. I expect we will make some decisions next week as to whether or not to replace these youngsters. One reason is simply because the program only has a six month time limit and we want to work with students who want to be engaged at school for that period of time, giving themselves another chance to explore career options, other education options etc. It’s going to be a tough call, as the young people who are ‘possibly’ truanting would clearly benefit from the mentoring program. Students have been completing the Student Performer, the on-line assessment tool, and that continues to reveal heaps about these young people. One point that seems to be coming out of this activity is that a number of students are almost at the cross-roads with regard to life choices. They clearly have potential, are still battling to see the relevance of school, yet have no career pathways to travel down. The result is that they are drifting, definitely in danger of making the wrong choices which they could live to regret. Absolutely the right time to have...

43. New Programs launched and new training begins

Well, we finally have our three programs up and running! Earlier this week the mentors sat with their mentees while the latter completed the Student Performer, the on-line tool we use at the beginning and end of the mentoring journey to track the personal development of the mentees. The mentors also complete their own on-line Profiler after the training and at the end of the mentoring journey. Most mentors said they found it really valuable observing this process and learnt heaps about their mentees. Some had computer glitches, so they still have to complete the Performer. Their mentors were so impressive though. They pulled out the Student Manual and sat doing some of the ‘getting to know u’ activities and had a great time. I went through the completed Performers and did a quick analysis of each, which I fed back to the respective mentors to add to their own perspectives. As I commented to quite a few mentors, their mentees have entered the mentoring journey at such a good time. Some of these students look as though they are about to take off (in a positive way), but have social issues, inconsistent approaches to their academic studies, management of time and prioritising shortfalls. With the assistance of their mentors, they have a really good chance of plugging these gaps before the challenge becomes ‘too hard’. Other mentors will have considerably more work to do to encourage their mentees simply to start believing in themselves. Sadly, it looks as though one of the students who was supposed to join the program has disengaged from school. Lots of personal issues....

42. Death of a mentor … the value of networking …can't say enough about it

It has been a busy week, but one of the highlights was jumping into my car and heading off on a two hour drive to meet the Coordinator of another youth mentoring program. GR8 MATES is modelled on the Plan-it Youth program which this Coordinator is involved with. I had been encouraged to meet up with her quite some time ago, but decided not to until the first GR8 MATES program was well under way. I reasoned that then we would have things to talk about, I would have heaps more pertinent questions to ask and, possibly, I could also share some of my experiences 🙂 I arrived at one of the host schools to link up with her, just in time to say ‘hello’ to the departing group of mentors. The program has about 8 – 12 mentors in each of the 14 schools where it operates. What I didn’t know until after the mentors had departed was that this particular group had just had a very tough session, as one of the mentors had been knocked over by a motor vehicle the previous weekend and had died from the injuries sustained. How had this been handled by the school and the Coordinator? Well, the mentors had gathered together a little earlier at the school. The mentee, accompanied by a friend, had joined these mentors and, together, they had held a minute’s silence, remembering the mentor and had a brief time of sharing positives about her as well. The mentee has been offered counselling etc. by the school and will participate in the end of program celebration should...

41. And the third new program gets under way

On Thursday the third GR8 MATES program got under way in one of our Hawkesbury Schools and what a great time it was, too. One of the new mentors phoned me early in the day to say she had had an altercation with a horse the previous day and was at one of the local hospitals waiting to see the doctor, as the damage was around her eye. I suggested that her health was more important than anything else and that she should not panic about making the mentor matching session, but we would make a plan for her to meet up with her mentee on another day. I received a couple of text messages as I was driving to the school, informing me that this mentor was on her way! While she obviously arrived late, it was a wonderful example to the students of how committed these mentors are to the program. She and her mentee got on wonderfully well, which was awesome to see ….. It looked as though most of the other matches also got off to a good start, although it’s way too early to jump to any conclusions. Certainly all the pairs were eagerly engrossed in discussion after they had both signed the Mentor and Mentee Contracts respectively. I asked the mentors to go through the contracts with their mentees, pointing out to both that, like a job, one has to get used to making commitments and, by signing the Contracts, they were making a commitment to positively participate in the program A small life skill! Gathering with the mentors for some snacks and...