I sat down with some of East Lothian Works’ Mentors to gain insight into their experiences on the programme. The Mentoring Programme allows young people between S2 and S6 to gain insight and guidance from a professional working in a field of work that interests the pupil. The scheme allows students in East Lothian to gain knowledge and experience of a certain industry, as well as gain support and advice on personal and emotional issues.
What made you decide to become a Mentor?
Andrew: Being a Mentee at school made me want to do the same for other people. I used to coach Karate so I’ve had involvement with young people as well so I knew it was something I wanted to do.
Sharon: I thought I had something to give back.
Steve: If you have the opportunity to get involved in the community, develop your skills, and meet new people – take it! Mentoring young people (and volunteering in general) can be hugely rewarding for both the Mentee and yourself. I’m also fully in support of the work that East Lothian Works does for people of all ages so the chance to help with one of their projects was great.
How have you found your experience as a Mentor?
Andrew: I’ve really enjoyed it. I would love to keep doing it. I’ve been thinking about doing the Children’s Panel so this is a good stepping stone towards that and an insight into what it is like.
Sharon: Very rewarding.
Steve: It was positive – I met a really nice young person, loads of potential and they had clearly been supported really well by the school and the teachers and their family – they were in a great position and had a very bright future ahead of them. It is not without its challenges – when you meet people in this sort of scenario in reality neither the Mentor or Mentee know how it is going to go or what they will get from it – it takes a bit of time to build up that relationship and really find out what the person needs from you to help them.
What have you got out of being a Mentor?
Andrew: The experience that I can then use elsewhere in my life. I just wanted to give back, it’s not for any self-gain.
Sharon: Some pupils don’t learn skills that would help them in the world of work, such as interview skills, so we were able to practice that.
Steve: A renewed faith in the education system. I was so impressed with how the High School was looking after its pupils; it has been over 20 years since I last went into a High School and things have really changed. You learn as well, young people face different challenges and pressures than I did in my youth – I had no idea kids watch YouTube videos of each other playing video games – why on earth would you want to watch them and not play them? But I’m assured it’s the done thing now!
What was the most difficult part of the experience?
Andrew: Engagement with the pupil can be tough; getting the student to open up to you. There was a lot of leading from my point of view.
Sharon: Nothing immense. Perhaps arranging a time that suited the pupil because of classes that they had to be in. Because the meetings were held in the school, they had to be during school hours, and you don’t want to impinge on their lunch.
Steve: It’s the ice breaking – you have to find out (quickly) what the young person needs – everyone needs something different. It’s the Mentor’s responsibility to break those barriers down, and it takes practice. It’s great when you do though and both the Mentor and the Mentee start to share ideas/discuss things in more detail.
What was the best part of the experience?
Andrew: The sessions with the pupils, talking and finding out what’s happening in their lives. What they’re thinking about after school. I was able to offer advice.
Sharon: Everything. It was rewarding because they wanted to meet with me again after their first meeting. It was good; I just felt I had given something. I came away feeling pretty good, and the fact that there were no uncomfortable silences.
Steve: It’s all about the young person and their outcomes – if I can help them in any way, even if it’s just to reassure them that they are doing great; that’s the payback.
If you’re interested in being a Mentor for the Mentoring programme, please get in contact with East Lothian Works:
Tel: 01620 827 262
If you’d like to be a Mentee, please speak to your Guidance Teacher.