Mentors help students decide whether to stay on or leave

A fresh crop of mentors completing their induction paperwork

The Central Coast Mentoring Program has reconvened, with mentors lined up to help local high schoolers make more informed decisions about their education.

The program is delivered in partnership by the Central Coast Mentoring Network Inc. (CCMNI) and Central Coast Secondary Schools Mentoring (CCSSM) and runs at Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College’s Tumbi Umbi and Berkeley Vale Campuses, Erina, Narara, Kincumber and Terrigal High Schools, and the Peninsula’s Brisbane Water Secondary College.

The program connects Year 10 students with a mentor, someone whose own life experiences allow them to provide advice, insights and opportunities to students that they might not typically have access to.
Working with their student mentee for one hour per week for 10 to 12 weeks, mentors are matched with their mentee based on mutual interests, past experiences and initial connections made during a ‘jitters session’, where mentors and mentees meet for the first time.

Those sessions have been happening at participating schools throughout February with the program proper set to kick off in March.
According to CCMNI President, Richard Kennedy, and CCSSM Program Coordinator, Cassi White, 60 mentors and mentees will take part in the 2020 program, with the goal of improving outcomes for the mentee as they face one of their first big life decisions, continuing on with their HSC or leaving at the end of Year 10 to join the workforce.
White said that the goal of the program was not to sway students either way, but to show them that they had options and to help them make an informed choice.
“The program is all about engaging kids who might be wrestling with the decision to stay on or leave, and connecting them with someone with real world experience who isn’t a parent, carer or teacher, who then works with their student to empower them to make that decision,” White said.
White said mentors and mentees also get out and about together with career orientated excursions and industry experiences as a regular part of the program.
“These outings are an integral part of the program, allowing the mentor/mentee relationship to flourish, whilst giving students some tangible ideas about what they might like to pursue a career in.
“The benefits of the program have been palpable, with participating students’ attendance up, communication skills improved and overall, more engagement in the classroom,” White said.
“At the end of the day, the students gain a new sense of what it means to be connected to the community and have a friend and confidant that they know is there because they want to help them succeed, no matter what they decide,” White said.
Kennedy said students weren’t the only ones to benefit from the program, with mentors getting just as much out of it as their charges.
“Our mentors are often older people with a wealth of life experience, knowledge and expertise, but they’re often people who feel disconnected from the community.
“Through the program, mentors get to engage with young people, foster a new sense of community and generally report a sense of improved wellbeing after being involved,” Kennedy said.
The program is completely not-for-profit with CCMNI funding it entirely through donations and grant funding, with CCSSM ensuring its delivery across the Coast.

Interview, Feb 18
Richard Kennedy, Central Coast Mentoring Network Inc.
Cassi White, Central Coast Secondary Schools Mentoring
Reporter: Dilon Luke

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