When The Independent on Sunday released its Happy List 2014, youth mentor Efe Ezekiel was one of 100 people celebrated for her efforts to enrich the lives of others. Here, she talks about her mentoring scheme Ushine Ishine and explains how mentors can work alongside teachers in helping young people to realise their potential.
I have been a youth mentor for nearly 10 years. I work to support the already fantastic work teachers and schools do with young people by offering an alternative contact point. Unfortunately, mentoring – from external people rather than peer or teacher mentoring – is not as widespread as it should be, and schools are missing out. Mentoring schemes that bring people in from the local community or external organisations are a great support to teachers and schools as it gives young people access to additional role models, information and choices that can shape their lives positively. Mentoring helps our great teachers around the country provide a platform to the world of other people, work, careers and views on achieving for their students. Most importantly, a mentor can help with dealing with social issues that young people can sometimes find hard to address with family members or teachers, like depression, abuse, loneliness and bullying. It is all about providing different and accessible routes for children to express themselves clearly and develop themselves as they move into adulthood. It is not replacement of the work teachers do pastorally, it is an addition. The local community receives numerous benefits from young people having community mentors as it impacts the way that they interact with others. For example, we teach them about the powerful effects of making sure that when they attain success and achievements, they have to help others reach theirs. We create links within communities and bring a fresh approach to the messages of understanding and tolerance. When you teach a young person to harness their self-confidence and self-efficacy they can change the world by not only being a good citizen, but also starting to become role models as well. This contributes both in and out of school with increased peer-to-peer mentoring skills, and students go on to work on social initiatives – sometimes they even go on to begin local businesses, which generates money and employment opportunities for all. For some, the impact of community mentors is that they become highly committed to giving back in the same way as they have benefited, while others volunteer, do charity work or simply do better at school. There are many ways to bring mentors into school life. You can contact organisations such as mine, Ushine Ishine, or make links with local and community groups or charities. The results of the relationships will change young people’s perception of themselves and abilities rapidly.