In spite of some inherent challenges, school-based mentoring is an innovative supplement to the traditional learning that takes place in schools, providing potentially at-risk students with another avenue through which they might feel more confident about their schoolwork, improve their attitudes and commitment to learning, and develop more fully a sense of community connection. School-based mentoring initiatives support schools (in partnership) to develop and implement a preventative program that can be tailored to meet the needs of individual students and larger student cohorts, while identifying and supporting at-risk students within the classroom.
In 2016 Gateway LLEN has brokered a new partnership with Vermont Secondary College (VSC) and EACH designed to support at-risk students in the classroom via student mentoring. The aim of this partnership is to partner alumni students as mentors to a cohort within the school identified as being at risk of disengaging and/ or engaging in potentially harmful behaviours. The program now consists of seven mentors over a variety of days in the week, determined by their availability during their tertiary studies. Two sit specifically with the college’s Wellbeing team, the senior of whom is inducting and training her replacement over a six month period. They provide a range of programs and interventions, in either small groups or one-on-one. Three engage within VSC’s Literacy Intervention program, mainly in providing targeted reading comprehension activities to the new Year 7 cohort, but also across a range of support and transition issues e.g. they assist with the school’s Edutest Day and Orientation Day, attend the Year 7 Camp. They also provide mentor support to a small group of senior students identified by the Pathways team, assisting with organisation and time management etc., and also support the Pathways team during large group programs. A further two mentors have just recently been engaged after identifying a gap in provision of Wellbeing programs for boys.
VSC manages the day-to-day implementation of the Alumni Mentoring Partnership, ensuring the appropriate “match” of mentor to mentee according to the assessment of each individual student’s needs, supporting mentors / mentees to ensure that each mentee’s unique challenges and goals are addressed appropriately and providing ongoing accountability and annual review for mentors. Complimenting this is the contribution of EACH who has designed and facilitates a “Mentor Induction & Training” program for all mentors and relevant VSC staff and provides formal “supervision” for all mentors and staff at regular intervals as agreed upon with VSC. Of additional benefit, the partnership has supported VSC to develop streamlined referral pathways to EACH services where applicable.
The successful pilot of this partnership has tangibly increased student access to a preventative program tailored to meet the needs of individual students and larger student cohorts. In an extended pilot phase, a MoU is connected that contains the commitment that the program will continue to remain relevant.