58. Potential dangers of a government funded program

I have written before that GR8 MATES is linked to a federal funded not-for-profit organisation. In one month our two other pilot programs will be completed. I am also experiencing the perennial difficulty of recruiting volunteers for another program, mainly because the mentoring program is only part of my job and also because I haven’t really had enough time to recruit these volunteers. The school at which we are completing a pilot wants us to run another program next year. So, the idea is to train the mentors before the end of the year, match them and then they will be ready to begin the journey in February 2009. Thus far three of the current crop of mentors have indicated that they would like to continue next year and I have about six or eight others interested, though none of these have completed Application Forms yet. I will do some phoning on Monday and Tuesday next week, but if I don’t have 10 – 15 mentors for the program, I won’t go ahead at the moment. What this could mean, though, is that we will not be able to launch another program until we know whether or not we will be receiving more funding beyond 2009. Our Federal Government has changed, the economy is being hit by the world global recession – is one allowed to use that word? – so the government might decide our programs should be cut. It would be shooting itself in the foot, as we are working at skilling Australia, which is one of their election platforms. However, with all that they know about...

57. Nearing the end – a new beginning!

Well, two programs are almost completed. It’s school holidays now. Once term resumes, the two other pilot programs will have three weeks to run. I am still feeling that we could have had another three months with these pilots for them to be more effective, so it will be interesting to see what the results of the end of program online Mentor Profiler and Student Performers are. I have just completed an analysis of the first pilot’s Mentor Profilers and Student Profilers. Both show significant growth in the students’ development, while the mentors, as a group, have also shown more signs of positive development than I was expecting. I am awaiting some more feedback to my analysis from the founders of the program. Once I have this, perhaps I will place a summary as a separate blog page. It is looking like we have lost one student from one of the pilots. She has not been at school for many weeks and thus could be regarded as a student who has disengaged. Not even being a part of the mentoring program persuaded her to stay at school. Sadly, negative peer pressure, self-esteem issues and other personal issues have won the day, let’s hope only temporarily, as she has so much more potential than even she seems to realize. She had such a fantastic mentor who was prepared to walk the extra mile for her, but to no avail. Had we started the program in February instead of May perhaps she might still be at school and participating positively in the program – we will never know. However, there have...

55. Positive signs and more planning

This has been a productive week. One group of mentees completed their Student Online Performer and this has immediately given mentors ideas as to the areas they can explore with their mentees. Many of the students are revealing a great deal of potential, yet their self-belief and self-image will need attention. This is nothing new for a teenager. The fact that they are a little low on self-esteem is one of the reasons they are in the program. What I enjoyed, though, was the positive vibe in the room while the students were completing these Student Performers in the company of their mentors. A couple of students and their mentors have also embarked on the use of the email facility, which is also fantastic to see. One student has shared all sorts of ‘stuff’ already and has given the mentor a chance to start encouraging her, building her self-confidence and talking about different things they can do. Another student, only three weeks into the relationship, sent an email to his mentor informing the latter that he was sick and would not be at school for the mentoring session – very positive signs early in this new program. I would love to see more mentors and their students using the email facility like this. In another program one of the students was chatting to me about some of the things she has been doing with her mentor, mostly exploring career options, work experiences etc. The student commented that GR8 MATES had got her thinking about stuff she would never have thought about. Instead of leaving school at the end of...

48. First Program early evaluation results

The first pilot project of the GR8 MATES program comes to an end next week. This past week has been a time for reflection, completing Mentor Exit Surveys, Mentee Exit Surveys and the online Mentor Profiler and Student Performer. Although it’s too early to make any conclusive statements, it is not too early to say that this first program has been a resounding success. Students who have completed the Student Performer online have shown growth in many areas. Early signs are showing that those students who have grown in self-confidence are beginning to make strides to reach their potential. As there has been more of a leaning towards school retention and the development of career pathways in this program, it is good to see how much more confident most students appear to be in these areas. I need to do a lot more work on the evaluations etc., but there is enough evidence to suggest that a school-based youth mentoring program like GR8 MATES can be life-changing for young people who have plenty of self-doubt and, perhaps, are beginning to disengage from school. I am looking forward to seeing how the mentors have fared in the Mentor Profiler and hope that most of them will complete this during the forthcoming weekend. The two other programs are becoming more settled. In one of the schools another mentee has left the school, so we are awaiting the paperwork from another student. Mentors involved in these processes are showing great patience and restraint, as it would be all too easy for them to walk away from the program. I keep all mentors...

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...