Whittlesea Secondary College has embraced the Raise Youth Mentoring program, and its become a highly-valued part of the school. The program has been a success story for the past three years at Whittlesea, even overcomings the challenges of COVID restrictions last year.

A YOUTH mentorship program implemented at schools Australia-wide has proved a success, according to Whittlesea Secondary College wellbeing team member Stephen Macpherson.

The Raise Youth Mentoring program is a youth mentoring movement aiming to impact youth wellbeing and engagement through early intervention in secondary schools.

Raise volunteers hope to ensure young people feel heard, valued and supported.

The Raise Foundation last week announced it would introduce its mentoring program to five new secondary schools including Wallan Secondary College, starting in term two.

It will take the number of programs in Victorian schools to 31.

Students from years eight and nine will participate in the program by getting the chance to work one-on-one with their own mentor.

Mr Macpherson said the program had been running at the Whittlesea school for three years, even after some challenges with COVID restrictions in 2020.

“We’ve run it for the last three years, and it’s proved successful each time we run it. Last year was a challenge of course with remote learning, but there were a few schools that did it remotely,” he said.

“We had access to more mentors, and even though they weren’t face-to-face, it worked really well online. We had break out rooms so they could talk in groups.

“Nearly every student that’s done it previously asks ‘can we do it again?’ They love the mentors that they had. When it was at school there was morning tea, and the students loved the fact they could sit afterwards and talk.

“Mentoring is obviously a thing where you’re matching up a mentee with a mentor, someone they can talk to or ask questions, not a counselling program as such, but learning from someone outside of your immediate network.”

Having co-ordinated programs across Australia for more than a decade, The Raise Youth Mentoring program will be introduced at Wallan Secondary College in term two, after a successful three years at Whittlesea Secondary College.

Mr Macpherson said the program provided a supportive environment for students.

“For the students, it’s a real opportunity to learn from someone in an environment that’s supportive, none-judgemental, and they can build a relationship,” he said.

“The program runs over two terms, 18 weeks, and a lot of effort is put into matching mentors with mentees. Prior to matching, they all meet as a group, and the mentees get asked who they felt connected to.

“They then nominate a mentor, start with an introduction session, and from there they can pretty much talk about anything.

“For some of those young people, they might not have the opportunity to express their frustrations at home, whereas in this environment they can just be heard without being interrupted or challenged.”

Mr Macpherson said it was a beneficial program for both mentors and mentees.

“At the end of the program we have a graduation where both the mentor and mentee get to say something,” he said.

“It’s an intimate group, and what they have to say is heartfelt and sincere. There’s often quite a few tears in the room.

“That’s when the mentor can see the difference their relationship has made, and they say how beneficial it’s been for them as well.”

Raise program area manager Jodie Harris said there were many benefits of joining the Raise program.

“There are many benefits for both the mentor and the mentee. For the mentee, they get to experience a trusted adult who is committed to meet with them for an hour every week to simply listen to whatever that young person wants to talk about.

“Our mentors are trained in active listening skills, life-skills like goal setting, and how to relate to young people and the issues they might be facing.

“For our mentors the benefits are so rewarding in being able to be a cheerleader to a young person, to help their mentee identify their key strengths and to support that person.”

Volunteers are recruited from the local community, to become mentors to students in school.

Wallan Secondary College’s wellbeing and program coordinator Bonnie Williams said the slightest positive influence had the potential to impact a young person’s life.

“At Wallan Secondary College we know the importance of connection and positive supports for our students, not only at school, but from the wider community,” she said.

“Through this new and exciting partnership with Raise, we see new networks will be developed that will ensure our students have support that encourages them to remain engaged in learning and feel connected to their communities.”

People interested in joining the mentorship program as a mentor, or signing up their school for the program, should visit raise.org.au for more information.