Celebrating Volunteers’ Week – Zenni Shaw – My Very Own Mentoring Journey
When I first heard of The Way Mentoring Programme, I was in my second year of my Psychology degree and was already mentoring looked after children and first year students. This programme sounded different to any other mentoring I’d done before, with more of a focus on one to one support, aimed at personal development not tied to academic success. It also struck a chord personally with me, I remember the baffling times of being young, the expectations, the pressures and the confusion of who you want to be now and who you want to be in the future. What helps navigate and plays a crucial part through this part of life is having a support network, a safe place to talk and explore who you are. This is what The Way Mentoring Programme does, it lets young people have support without feeling like they are constricted to hit targets. It relies on the humanistic approach of getting to know people and working together to create a positive experience for both mentor and mentee.
During my time volunteering as a mentor, my first few months were swings and roundabouts, but what helped was that we were matched perfectly on personality and interests. Throughout the year there were tough times and each time that happened I had the reassurance that what I was doing right. Once you build up rapport with your young person it is always daunting when they open up to you and you give advice (top tip don’t ever expect them to take it). Another top tip is don’t expect to change everything but be aware of the little things, for me I felt the role I played was, well, I can only hope an empowering one. The key things I hoped I instilled are; You can be who you want, as strange as you want, as opinionated as you want but you must own it and not expect everyone to love it. Also taking yourself away from people and places that are negative is key in the long run.
So, lets move on to the job i have now and why i decided to apply for the role of Mentoring Cooridnator. It’s third year of University , I said I would never work in my final year, however, it turns out I love working with young people and aside from this, i completely agree with the ethics of the programme. Most importantly it was a new challenge and I love a challenge. It’s given me the opportunity to see the workings behind the mentoring programme, the overall youth zone, the challenges and a lot of the highs of working for a charity. This experience is crucial in understanding the well being of our young people and the issues they face. I also been given the space to have creative freedom (pro at making pretty things) and have my own projects and develop them and create engaging sessions for young people. So this is where I’m at now and although coming to the end of this chapter it has been a great opportunity.