Mentoring: the impact of valuing young people

Josh joined SW!TCH Expeditions [one of our previous alternative education provisions] and was assigned a one-to-one mentor by the name of Adam. Josh had a history of mental health issues, struggled to control his temper, and was prone to using abusive language. The SW!TCH team set out on a mission to build his confidence – Adam offered to take him away on a camping trip along with a handful of other students and mentors. During the trip, his mentor deliberately chose to focus on positive efforts that Josh was making and less on the issues he faced.

At one point during the camping trip, Josh got very angry and stormed away from the group. We found out that another student had accused him of being racist, which was something that had come up multiple times in the past.

The next day, Josh was involved in some physical jobs around camp with his mentor. Adam used this opportunity to praise Josh’s work and highlight how hard he was working. With the atmosphere positive, Adam turned the conversation to yesterday’s incident. Soaking wet, covered in mud, a shovel in his hand, Josh broke down and opened up to Adam.

I've been trying not to be racist; it really annoyed me when [she] accused me of being racist again. I've really been trying to change!

Until now, for nine months as mentor, Adam had tried to speak with Josh about these racist comments and received nothing but defensive rebuttals. But those nine months of frustration all melted away in a second when Josh was in a situation where he felt valued and cared for. He felt confident enough to tell Adam that he was trying to change.

Being a mentor simply means taking time to build relationship, valuing the young person, and being willing to dig behind the behaviour they present on the outside. Without a parent or other family member willing to take this role, they need a another adult they can trust there instead – a mentor.

This is our celebration of 21 years of serving our community.