Mentoring Youthreach Students

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Jo Boden, Ballyshannon Youthreach tutor and mentor.

Mentoring is a support provided to Youthreach students in twenty centres around the country, including our Ballyshannon Youthreach centre but what does this involve? In this blog, Ballyshannon Youthreach tutor and mentor Jo Boden tells us more about it.

I have been a mentor with Ballyshannon Youthreach for the past twelve years. Mentoring involves listening, understanding, supporting and motivating students to help them reach their full potential during their time in Youthreach.

Mentoring provides a safe space for students to talk about where they are at in their life in three steps:

  1. How they feel about where they are at in life – for example, they may be feeling overwhelmed with choices they have made in the past and unsure what to do next.
  2. Imagine how they would like things to be in life – for example, they might talk about what they would like to change in life or accomplish.
  3. Make a plan to help make their life situation better – for example, they might set some short-term and long-term goals and agree to taking steps towards making their situation better.

The student identifies their interests and goals. We acknowledge short-term and long-term goals and the student writes them down.

I use the Web Wheel, a tool specifically designed for this work, to help identify areas where they are doing well and areas of concern for students.  I provide support and encouragement to address any problems students identify and can then signpost the student to colleagues or agencies if necessary to arrange literacy support, numeracy support, advocacy support, counselling and support with emotional and social needs.

Students come to their mentor with issues such as sleeping problems, wanting to give up smoking, to improve their diet and how to manage their anxiety, how to make appointments and phone calls, improve health and fitness, how to look after and plan their sexual health, budgeting and planning and ICT for everyday life. By supporting the student their mentor helps to raise their self-confidence and build links in the community.

Students will complete their mentoring journey with a better understanding of who they are and what they want to achieve. They will have developed emotional and social competencies which will impact positivity on both future progression, employability and their mental health. As one student highlighted:

“We get extra support from counselling, advocacy, literacy and numeracy. Each student gets a mentor, my mentor worked with me on setting short and long-term goals and helped me to achieve them. We get to do work experience throughout the year, and I have a new job working in a hotel at weekends. In work experience we look at areas of employment that we are interested in and get to do a C.V. I hope to apply for a hospitability course in September as I would like to become a hotel manager. My favourite subject are I.T. and Art, I also enjoy cooking. I feel sad to finish Youthreach and I’m going to miss everyone in here, but I am thankful for the help and support I have gotten.”

Good quality centre relationships and success in learning helps the student grow and mature and it opens up possibilities in the future that the student may never have seen for themselves before. The student will leave with a toolbox of resources to support their wellbeing when challenges may arise.