Bolton wanderer back on the right path;Mentoring

4th June 1999 at 01:00
Next Monday evening, Chris Grundy and Lee Spencer could be off bowling or Go-carting - or they might choose to shoot some pool at Bolton Lads and Girls Club. Chris is 15. For the past six months he has been meeting Lee, a 23-year-old site engineer, through one of six mentoring projects run from the club, the largest youth club in the North-west.

The Schools Project, which has brought Chris and Lee together, aims at reducing truancy and exclusion rates at George Tomlinson school in nearby Kearsley. It also gives extra support to pupils with emotional or behavioural problems.

Lee and Chris first met when mentors and mentees went away for a weekend of outdoor activities in the Peak District. They've been meeting for a few hours on Monday evenings ever since.

Previously, Chris had been temporarily excluded from school and cautioned by the police. He had already decided to change his ways. "I realised myself that if I kept on getting into trouble, people would see me as a bad lot and not give me a job. Lee being there has helped me and stopped me going down the wrong road. He has given me a bit more direction. If we hadn't met up I might be out on the streets messing about like I used to do."

Chris wants to work as a joiner, studying at college on day release. His relationship with Lee has helped him focus more on this school work and get to grips with form-filling. It has also boosted his self-confidence.

"I'm not really used to talking to a lot of people so it's been good to come down to the club with Lee." He does not have a lot of contact with adults outside school and home. "Usually I just talk to mum. Lee and I talk about all sorts of things and go out and have fun."

Last month, Chris found himself speaking to a room full of people at workshop at the National Mentoring Network conference in Manchester about the project.

Lee, who comes from Blackburn fancied doing voluntary work for some time, but wasn't sure what. Then he read an article about the Lads and Girls Club mentoring schemes. "It just appealed to me. By getting involved in something like this you do get something back. It's not like standing on a street corner rattling a tin."

He knows how easy it is to get distracted from studying at school, Though he now has a BTEC and a responsible job, he left school with no GCSEs. Helping a younger person make the right decisions is very satisfying. He would recommend mentoring. "You just need life experience and the right attitude. It's good to think that you might be making a difference to someone" In Bolton, more mentors are needed. According to Julie Akman, a project worker, demand is growing; young people at the club are asking for forms, keen to refer themselves. Word has spread that it can be both helpful and fun.

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