Last year I was invited to an event that showcased some of the work you do and got talking to a number of Patrons who had been Mentors for young people; it sounded a great thing to do. At the time I was really worried I couldn’t fit it into my busy life so I left it for a couple of months or so to think about. Then after speaking to others I realised that there was never a good time. I have my own business and I really believe that businesses should give something back and feel very strongly about this. So, I took the plunge.
It prepares you for what you can do and what you can’t do. It makes you think about the consequences of not being reliable to a young person. You realise how important it is to not just give up on a young person. You get some idea of how kids can test you, which is great if you’ve not worked with kids before or are not used to them and it makes you think about how important what you say is. My mentee is always testing me and says things like ‘will you burn this car up that hill?’ So, I tell him I’m not wasting petrol and talk about the danger of driving fast and why it’s not worth it.
I get my Mentor Coordinator to support me and talk through any worries or concerns I have on a regular basis.
I think he’s got more confidence. His foster carer tells me that his behaviour at school improves when he sees me. Apparently he perceives me as cool and has started to realise that you can be ‘cool’ and have a job. For him being cool seemed like it was all about taking drugs and having fast cars. He associates nice cars with drug dealers. I guess I show him another view, that if you work hard and put your mind to something you can get yourself a nice car. I think he has really lacked positive role models in his life
I have strong opinions on education. I wasn’t very ‘academic’ and I struggle with the way our society has a very rigid view of education. For lots of young people academic studies aren’t right for them and that’s okay; you can be good at other things. So for lots of kids on mentoring I think it is about showing young people that you can be successful and happy doing other things, even if school isn’t right for you.
For me I didn’t want to go to Uni. It wasn’t me. I wanted a job and I was young and enthusiastic and got tonnes of experience. From that first job I saved some cash and with some financial support I set up my own business. My mum has been a massive positive influence in my life, I never got told off for not achieving at school, instead I got told I was better at other things. The thing that gave me the drive and confidence in myself was my parents. My parents have always believed in me and said I could do anything I wanted. I’ve always had that encouragement from them and that is really important when you are growing up. I feel really passionate about this and want to do my bit in helping a young person have more self-confidence and self- belief in what they can do with their own life.
One thing I would say about mentoring is that you have got to remember why you are doing it. I know sometimes when I’m stressed at work then it can feel like a chore. Then you have to remind yourself why you are doing it. You are there to help someone and if you treat them like a chore they will feel like one. You have to try and teach them something and help them improve.
Stop thinking about it, just do it. Time is an excuse; it’s your head telling you can’t do it and finding reasons. Just do it.