Last week was the final meeting for 2007 of the mentors with their mentees and was also an opportunity to celebrate the partnerships. Mentors spent time with their mentees catching up, doing some planning for 2008 and chatting about the use of the email facility during the holidays. Thereafter, we all gathered in one of the school Common Rooms and enjoyed some special celebratory food brought in by an outside caterer. The School Principal thanked all the mentors for their voluntary commitments to the project and complimented all on the very positive vibe that was evident to any outsider observing the mentoring program. Students then presented their mentees with a school coffee mug, key ring, small pocket calculator and pen as a token of thanks.

During these past two weeks mentors and mentees have been completing an Evaluation Survey about how things are going. These surveys have made for very positive reading indeed, some students wanting more time with their mentees. There is one student who is still undecided about continuing with the program in 2008 despite an excellent relationship with her mentor. I guess we are observing the extreme effect of peer pressure and it will be interesting to see what happens when the school opens next year.

I have had some interesting discussions with mentors in recent weeks. Some wanted to give Christmas gifts to their mentees. I had stressed during the training that we did not want mentors to spend money on their mentees, as that’s not the point of running a youth mentoring program. However, so as not to upset anyone, I suggested they give their small gifts, but ask the students not to advertise this to the world, as I don’t want there to be competition between the mentors and their mentees. I did, however, stress that materialism is right at the bottom of what we want to achieve with this program. After the mentors had met their mentees, one of the latter voiced her disappointment in an email to her mentor that she (the mentee) had not had a gift for the mentor. I have asked the particular mentor to work through this with the mentee. It is important that we keep our focus on the development of the relationship without the gifts.

As the relationships are starting to gain momentum, I am being asked if the mentors can take their mentees to visit tertiary institutions etc. in 2008. Of course, this is part of the program plan, but the more I have thought about this, the more things are clarifying for me. So many of our young people are living in the world of instant gratification. I shall be sharing with mentors the need for us to do some thorough planning, which will include ensuring that mentees arrive on time for their meetings with mentors and that the former have all the school paperwork signed and completed. We are still awaiting some paperwork from mentees. Taking this line we will also be preparing the mentees for the real world beyond school and helping them to appreciate that they need to be responsible and more accountable. When they have completed their side of the bargain the door opens for more adventures beyond school with their mentors.

One of our mentors was able to watch her mentee participate in a school ballet performance, which was great, and she has also assisted her mentee obtain a part-time work placement at a hairdresser in 2008. Thus a young person is beginning to explore possible options for the future, one of the main points of this program.

There are other potentially interesting developments taking place in the mentoring partnerships, a number of mentees beginning to share some of their more personal ‘stuff’ – more of that in 2008.

Another mentee does not have access to email at home. However, the email facility is free at the local library, so the school has given permission for the mentor to take the mentee to the local library so that the student can join and then have access to the email facility – this is due to take place this week before the schools close for the Christmas vacation. Interesting to see if this materialises.

I remain tremendously encouraged by the way this program is rolling out and the fantastic relationships developing between these two strangers, fast becoming friends and GR8 MATES in most instances 🙂 One student was unable to be present at the final meeting as he was involved in training some younger students to do life-saving (swimming). When I arrived in the office that morning, the student had already left a message advising me of this – how impressive was that!?

On that positive note, time to wrap up for 2007.