Mentoring program helping students succeed

The local community mentoring program has played an active role in the lives of many of Whyalla's young people since 2010.

This month Whyalla residents who are looking to make a difference in young people's lives as well as make a rewarding contribution in the community, are being encouraged to sign up as a mentor.

Mentors are members of the community who are able to donate their valuable time and skills to build a relationship with students.

However a mentor is not a replacement for a parent or carer, or a teacher, they are a person the student can have an independent friendship with who can offer advice and be a non-judgemental sounding board.

Nicolson Avenue Primary School R-7 has been involved in the Whyalla Community Mentoring program since its inception and has had 12 successful mentoring relationships, with some extending through to high school.

Changes in the funding model this year has allowed participating schools to take control of running the program and are now able to select students across the whole primary school age range.

A mentor at Hincks Avenue Primary School, Linda Brown has been involved with the program for three years and during that time has mentored three different children.

Ms Brown said she has formed a special and unique bond with each student and said that it is wonderful to hear that the students look forward to seeing her too.

"I really looked forward to the weekly hour visits at the school and was happy to hear how much she [a student] enjoyed the visits as well," Ms Brown said.

Hincks Avenue Primary School mentoring students Jonothan Traun, Kiesha and Mya McKellar said they look forward to Thursdays with their mentors.

"We make pillows, cook things and once we made goo," Jonothan said.

As part of training that is provided and meetings for mentors to swap and share ideas and success stories, mentors are equipped with some great bonding activities to do with their students.

"We cook, do scrapbooking and make different things, and we share our cooking with teachers and our families," Kiesha said.

Mentors and students can even just sit and talk or take part in non-competitive activities.

"We play games sometimes and when we play it is not all about winning and my mentor helps me with my school work," Mya said.

Hincks Avenue Primary School student support officer and mentor Karen Newton said the program helps children develop communication skills, feel valued and explore interests.

"I have seen the program lift the spirits of many children involved and improves their attendance at school," Ms Newton said.

"The kids are so excited and often ask me, is my mentor coming today and say I can see her car, she is here."

If you feel you have the ability and time to dedicate one hour a week to a young person, please contact the volunteer liaison officer at your local primary school.

A training day for potential mentors will be offered on Thursday, August 22 at the Department of Education and Child Development district office on Nicolson Avenue between 9am and 3.30pm.

The day covers the roles and responsibilities of mentors and includes a mandatory report abuse and neglect course.

The program coordinators are keen to see more men become involved as positive male role models in the lives of young people are very important for both male and female students.

All enquiries for this training day should be directed to Nicolson Avenue Primary School R-7 volunteer liaison officer Wenda Johnston on 8645 8685.

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