We have developed a program that is simple and flexible that can be easily incorporated into a variety of settings across the country, in order to address the limited engagement with education and training and marginalisation that is being experienced by rural and remote youth.
Adult mentors are sourced externally to the local community, carefully screened, trained and supported by the association. We thoughtfully match each of our mentees to a mentor with similar hobbies or interests to foster a deeper and more meaningful connection. Students are given the opportunity to email their mentor throughout the school week, allowing them to discuss their life goals, challenges they may be going through or simply what they have been doing that week.
As the program is primarily electronic based and delivered via regular emails there is a greater amount of flexibility for both schools and mentors. Face-to-face events organised throughout the year are a fun way for students to socialise with their mentors and get to know them better. For our mentors, face-to-face activities are a great opportunity to interact with other mentors and to experience life in a country town.
Mentoring provides a positive role model and confidante during critical teenage years. Not only does it allow marginalised young people to feel supported and always have a trusted ear to listen to, for our country kids it is so much more than that. A mentor gives the students a greater global perspective of the world and their future potential. It gives the students an insight into what opportunities are available to them outside of their local confines. Our program gives country students the confidence to believe that they can achieve anything they desire should they have the courage to pursue it.
"Before I met my mentor I was the most nervous person out there, I could barely accept awards in front of an audience. Thanks to him, I can now make this speech today"
The students participating are not the only ones to benefit from the program. The parents/guardians and schools as well as the greater community also have a lot to gain from the program. Parents/caregivers cite that they have the added benefit of their child having extra support and a confidante when they often won't confide in them. Furthermore, schools report their student's to have improved confidence, engagement, leadership and responsibility. Regional communities are also experiencing the benefits of the program as the youth are the fabric and future these communities.
Our mentors benefit from the opportunity to engage in social justice by mentoring a young person. They get the fulfilment of seeing their mentee grow as a person and knowing that their support and encouragement had a role to play in that.
As a large majority of our mentors do not have a rural background, the opportunity to engage with a rural community, while also making a genuine difference, can be a life changing experience. We see many considering working in the country and accepting rural placements.
A full evaluation of our program was funded by Building Better Regions Community Fund in 2018 and completed by Regional Development Australia Wheatbelt (RDAW) demonstrating the benefits of our program. More recently, our data has been used by Regional Development Australia-Wheatbelt for an extensive evaluation into the positive effects our unique style of mentoring has and is having on our students.
To hear secondary students speaking of their futures as having almost limitless potential positions them to go on to become successful adults who, in turn, are willing to give back to their communities.
Jake Petterwood, Bruce Rock DHS Principal