Goodbye zombie, hello humanity

5th April 1996 at 01:00
Mark Hull is richer in many ways since he acquired a mentor, but admits he is poorer in others. His new-found attention to his studies, inspired by his link with Wesley Morris, led him to give up the evening cleaning job which earned him useful pocket money.

"I was working in a supermarket from 10pm till 5am," he says. "I was like a zombie in college in the day. Wesley told me to let him know any life-changing decisions and I've just rung him to say I've given up the job."

Mark, now 23, left school at 16 and tried a succession of part-time jobs before returning to college last year. Now on an access-to-science course, he plans to take a diploma in nutrition nd hopes to become a sports coach.

Without the support of a mentor - something he pushed for himself after trying one of the college's group mentoring sessions - he believes he would by now have given up his course, not his job. "I needed something that would help me focus on completing the course, getting my homework done and get me disciplined in a way I was not used to."

Mark's parents, like Wesley's, came to Manchester from the West Indies, and have no first-hand knowledge of the British education system. "Wes understands my background, but he has more experience than any of my family would be able to give me. He is a kind of role model to me."

The key for the student half of the partnership, he believes, is open-mindedness, commitment and the perseverance to put advice into practice.

Mark has no reservations about the mentoring concept, and expects to stay in regular touch with Wesley for several years to come. "If people like Wes weren't around, I think a lot of guys would have dropped out of education. It is not that the black guys like myself have got special weaknesses. It is just the fact that we are human."

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