Today will long remain as one of the most memorable days I have had being involved in a youth mentoring program. Sam (not her real name) came back! Sam had basically dropped out of school about seven weeks ago and had moved in with her boyfriend, who was a few years older than her, partly because she was having difficult family issues. Her mentor and I were trying to work out strategies to reach her, but were experiencing problems in this regard.

Last week I was told Sam had returned to school to write her exams. Today Sam appeared for the Celebration event and looked positively radiant! Each of the mentors and students shared something about the GR8 MATES program they had enjoyed.

Sam told us that she had thought she would not be allowed back to school. However, she had approached the acting Principal and had a discussion with him. Sam had decided that she not only wanted to return to school to write her Public Exams next week, but she wanted to stay on and complete her schooling! Her mentor shed a few tears and I think everyone in the room was moved, as Sam has had a tough time.

I spoke to Sam after the function and let her know how proud of her I was, told her that she had made some courageous decisions in recent weeks and also assured her that never again would she have to feel alone. One of her issues was that she didn’t feel she had anyone to talk to, but now she realises how important her mentor is in her life and they have agreed to carry on meeting. In addition, I have also offered to be a support to her via email. Sam has moved back home as well and knows she has to work at her relationship with her mum.

There were other great stories of how students had grown through the program and once again I needed little convincing that youth mentoring is highly effective, even though this program was only for six months, probably three months too short.

Some students absolutely did not want to speak publicly, but all gave it a go and some fears about public speaking were destroyed.

Another fantastic highlight for me was when a couple of students approached me and asked if it would be okay for them to mentor new students next year! Clearly this is not my decision, but I gave them every encouragement. How fantastic it was to know that these young lives had been impacted by their mentors in significant ways and now they want to pass on what they have learnt to others. Sam said she would say to any student: “Stay at school! Stay at school! Stay at school!”

What a privilege it has been to be a part of these young lives 🙂