Alan is a volunteer mentor with ProjectScotland, supporting young people to get on in life and find their own path. Here is Alan’s story and why he recommends intergenerational mentoring to anyone with life experience.
“I’ve mentored and coached throughout my career, so becoming a volunteer mentor felt natural to me. As a parent, I’ve seen first-hand how educational options are set out
Mentoring young people is simply about providing support and time, helping them understand their strengths and what they enjoy to help them decide their future goals. It is a chance to talk about what choices mean and empower them to make their own choices.
Since 2022, I have been mentoring a young person, Jon (not his real name). Jon has autism, and when we met, he was troubled and had withdrawn and disengaged from school. We meet every week, and over time, the transformation in Jon has been incredible. By talking and listening to Jon, I’ve discovered that he has a wide range of interests and a deep understanding of many subjects. For example, John’s knowledge of World War 2 is so in-depth that I have no doubt he could write a sociology or history essay. I recently gave Jon a brochure from the Imperial War Museum to encourage him, and it was fascinating listening to his knowledge of all aspects of both World Wars. I’ve learned so much from speaking with Jon.
That’s a huge part of what mentoring is about –listening to what young people are passionate about and feeling heard, as in my experience with Jon, provides them an opportunity to come out of themselves. I’ve experienced that Jon has real talents and a spark, and I believe that mentoring has been a lifeline for him.
When he finishes school, Jon would like to train to be a mechanic, and I know he will make it a success. For now, I am supporting him to find some volunteer work so that he can gain some experience and skills. Taking Jon through those stages is important, as is keeping the momentum going and making sure that he gets to where he wants to be.
Intergenerational mentoring changes lives, and I honestly think that our Government should introduce volunteer mentoring as a kind of national service!
Mentoring is so much more than it might seem; it is about befriending, interacting, being a listener, taking an interest, sharing your experiences to help them navigate systems and processes that are often overwhelming. Find out what makes a young person buzz so that they can feel better about themselves and set their own goals.
I cannot recommend volunteer mentoring enough! There are young people out there who could really do with your experience because they may not have support at home, school, or anywhere else. It is only an hour a week, yet that time can make a whole a world of difference.
If, like me, you look back and remember the people who inspired you in your life, then mentoring provides the opportunity to be that person for someone .”