Seeking new youth mentors for region

Program participant Jessie with mentor Angela Jones.Photo: Contributed

A local youth support program is seeking new mentors for 2022.

The “Your Past, Their Future” youth mentoring program is hoping to pair adults with school students to boost their engagement and confidence.

Program coordinator Melesa Eldred said that there is a huge need for mentors to work with young people.

“COVID has seen young people become detached from their education and their school community, Ms Eldred said.

“But I think COVID has also seen adults also feeling disconnected.

“This program is a great opportunity for adults and youth to feel connected to someone and something again.

“COVID saw volunteer rates drop across the country, whilst need and demand increased. Hopefully 2022 will be the time to close that gap.”

Sale resident Angela Jones is currently involved with the program, spending an hour each week with her mentee, Jessie.

“When I was approached to join the Mentoring Program I thought, ‘What a great idea, I can pass on my wisdom and experience to a young person and at the same time learn a bit about them’,” Ms Jones said.

“I am in my fifth year of mentoring and now I realise just how much my mentee does for me.

“She keeps me young and up with the ideas and terminology that is around the young people of today.

“Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur but at the same time I am able to impart some of my wisdom and life experience onto her.

“I truly have a new young friend.”

The program has also drawn positive responses from mentees such as Sharon.

“The mentoring program has been the best thing to happen to me in high school,” Sharon said.

“(My mentor) makes me feel good about myself and I’ve changed so much since meeting her.

“Everyone says I come back from my catch-ups so much happier.”

Another mentee involved with the program, Shane said that he enjoyed the fact that he had someone to talk to.

“It is a good feeling knowing that someone you never knew could become really good friends with you, even if there is a big difference between the two people,” Shane said.

“Your Past, Their Future” is funded by the Department of Education and Training and is delivered through Ozchild’s School-Focused Youth Services.

The program was launched in 2018 with students from Wurruk Primary, Guthridge Primary and Sale College participating.

Maffra Primary and Maffra Secondary College joined the program last year, with Yarram Secondary College being added in 2022.

As with previous years, the program is looking for adults who are able to spend one hour per week with a young person during school times.

Experience or qualifications are not essential, but prospective mentors will need to be reliable, trustworthy and non-judgemental.

“Mentors are not counsellors, teachers or parents. They are a friend,” Ms Eldred said.

Full training and ongoing support is provided throughout the program.

Information packs and application forms are available from Ms Eldred, who can be reached via her e-mail address: melesa.eldred@education.vic.gov.au