As the year draws to a close, it is nice to take a moment to reflect on all that has happened in the last 12 months on our Mentoring Programme. Our 38 committed mentors, working across the two cohorts, have enabled 364 mentoring sessions to take place across the year, equating to 828 hours of time spent supporting our young people. This demonstrates phenomenal dedication from our volunteers to improving the opportunities for young people of Swindon and Wiltshire.
Back in October, we said farewell to the 20 young people who had just finished their year long mentoring relationships. Due to the disruption of COVID this group had their Adventure Programme paused for a while back in 2020, extending their time with YAT meaning we got to work with them for an extra year, five years in total – the whole of their time at Secondary School!
Mentors were lucky enough to support these young people with the challenges and demands of their final year of school, including through their mock and GCSE examinations and all the revision and preparations that goes alongside. For these young people, knowing they had consistent mentoring support there for them during such a tough year was reassuring, one said:
“when you were working (dad) and you were working late (mum), it was sometimes hard to have conversations…and I was always in my room, putting that pressure on myself, so I guess it was more if no one is available at least I know someone’s just there”
Mentoring also helped them to build confidence in being more independent away from home:
“I’m starting to get more confidence to actually leave the house because I’m going out with my friends soon and I’m actually getting the confidence to leave without my mum. I’m really happy about it”
One parent described the tangible impact of mentoring on her daughter’s approach to their school work:
“There was a noticeable change in your results from your mocks pre-mentoring to the real ones where you were just so calm through the exams – lightyears difference – that was a really big difference which is definitely down to learning to cope better and having more self-belief”
After their exams and summer holiday, these young people then made the important transition into college and sixth form. By the end of the mentoring year, many of this group had also taken on part-time jobs, started learning to drive and were getting themselves to college everyday by public transport or even in some cases by scooter! It has been inspirational to see them take these big, life-changing steps, and humbling for mentors to have been a small part of their journey to becoming young adults. Despite all of these more weighty challenges, there was still time for plenty of fun and stimulating opportunities within mentoring sessions. Big favourites this year included a theatre trip, paddle boarding, visits to a board game cafe, visits to an escape room, a learning-to-drive experience among many more.
At the end of each mentoring year, we ask our mentors for feedback on their experiences. One mentor shared the considerable impact mentoring had on him:
“It absolutely has changed me, for the better. The experience really opens your eyes to different environments and experiences that young people have to go through. We’re all in our own silos of life, but with the mentoring you have to step out of your own shoes and get to understand a young stranger who’s had completely different life experiences. I’ve learnt loads about empathy and communication and how to engage with a young person and their interests. Mentoring has been massive for my own personal development.”
Since October, we have welcomed nine new mentors to the team and 18 brand new mentoring relationships are well underway to date. It’s an exciting time as mentors and young people start getting to know each other, exploring a range of activities together as they begin to build that trusting bond. As we look ahead to 2024 and all the adventure and growth it holds, we would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all our amazing mentors and incredible young people who have made this year one to remember!