I have always wanted to help young people believe in themselves. It honestly saddens me when I hear so much negativity expressed by young people. As a teacher and professional who has worked in education for 9 years, I have noticed that young people have increasingly become plagued by low self esteem and a belief that they can’t achieve. I don’t think the pressures are any different from when I was growing up but there’s a different level of intensity that young people face now.
I’m passionate about helping young people know who they are and fulfil their purpose in life. It was my late uncle who had asked me as a child what it was I wanted to do when I grew up. Many years went by and all I knew was that I had an interest in working with young people. I was living at home with my parents at the time when my dad told me in no uncertain words: ‘Either you go back to school (do A’ levels and then get a degree) or work because you’re not going to stay at home and ‘warm bench”! That was it! ‘Free paper burn’. I had to find direction and quick because I wanted to make a difference and not just be a spectator. I was accepted at University of Surrey and studied Sociology with Social Policy. Although my degree proved to be invaluable to understanding young people today, I was desperate to get more involved, up close and personal.
After a stint working for a small charity in London with young people at risk of permanent exclusion from school, I was headhunted to work as a learning mentor in an inner city secondary school. It was this job that challenged me the most, both professionally and personally. The job was a real turning point for me as it was also during this period that my faith in God strengthened. I truly believed God opened that door for me and many others since.
Seven years later my career has moved on and I am now a secondary school teacher working with young people with similar challenging circumstances. Upon reflection, working one-on-one with young people with or without the support of their parent/carers in a mentoring capacity still gives me a huge sense of satisfaction. That’s what attracted me to joining Urban Synergy two years ago – I could immediately identify with Urban Synergy’s mission and commitment to helping to change the aspirations of young people.
As a mentor, and having helped direct mentoring programmes in a secondary school setting, I know my limitations. Its human nature for mentors to think they can be all things to a young person that needs your help but you can’t be – and it’s dangerous to think you can be. I understand and appreciate the benefits of drawing on the expertise, skills and attributes of other professionals and working with them to enable a young person to work towards achieving their full potential. Young people who are facing drug issues or involved in criminal activity have sometimes come through my doors. My role has always been to assess the level of need, support where I can so they can overcome personal and educational barriers otherwise I enlist the support of appropriate specialist services and organisations.
If it’s appropriate for me to still be involved as their mentor it is also my job to be a constant source of encouragement and motivation. I’m able to help them look at their options. I try to empower them to think about different scenarios and encourage them to make the decision that is right for them. Young people are anxious to explore and experiment and as a mentor I have to realise that it’s important that we remind them of their responsibilities to themselves, their families, their community and society in general. Nothing beats the feeling of reward you get when you put your all into helping someone else to confront their personal fears and anxieties and overcome them. What can be more rewarding than that?