We talk to a volunteer in the Youth Frontiers program about the benefits of volunteering, her mentoring experiences, and why being part of the community is so important.
Last year, Louise Marshall was flicking through the paper when she came across an ad seeking mentors for Youth Frontiers. The program pairs older and wiser mentors with young people aged 12 to 16 – ‘mentees’ – to help them engage further with school and the community, and work on their study, leadership and teamwork skills.
Before she saw the ad, Louise had been thinking about volunteering in a way that would make use of her extensive skills in business management. “I had been seeking out ways to give back to the community, as even with a full corporate life I felt I was still lacking something,” she explains. Youth Frontiers seemed perfect, and after attending an information session about the program’s requirements she signed up.
Although this was her first time volunteering with high school students, Louise was already a dedicated volunteer. In the past she’d mentored regional entrepreneurs on small business development, and helped out with reading and creative activities at her local primary school.
“The benefits of volunteering are many – it brings me joy and happiness, and satisfaction that I’ve enriched another person’s life in a small way,” she says.
Meeting her match: mentoring 101
Louise was excited to meet her mentee for the first time. They sat and talked for an hour at the student’s library. “It was about getting to know each other,” she explains. “I learned about their passions, what drives them and what they enjoyed about school and life.”
To begin with her mentee was fairly quiet and reserved, which Louise expected from the first meeting. As the weeks progressed the mentee gained confidence in group environments, and was more open when discussing projects, personal goals, achievements and upcoming challenges, such as school subjects they were struggling with.
“I found my student became more confident and creative in discussions, got better at asking open questions, and started to believe that they could achieve things, and be heard,” Louise describes.
The importance of community connection
One aspect of the Youth Frontiers program is encouraging young people to be involved with community life. Louise has spent some time reflecting on the benefits it brings to both students and the community.
“A current sense of the world around you is key to becoming a well-versed adult,” she says. “Belonging to a community gives confidence in identity and purpose – whether that’s being part of a sporting club, the local church or assisting with community projects, even a part time job at the local shop.
“Young people also bring their fresh ideas to the wider community, creative solutions to community issues and a greater ability to foster respect between different generations.”
Louise assisted her mentee to participate in a group R U OK? Day project to raise funds for the local homeless shelter. The students wrote a business proposal which was approved by the school, and created posters to advertise the event. On the day they organised the fundraising activities, such as guessing the number of lollies in a jar, and a donut-on-a-string eating competition.
The benefits of Youth Frontiers
Louise had such a great time mentoring in 2017 that she’s signed up to mentor two students this year.
“Unfortunately these types of programs didn’t exist when I was at school,” she says. “I would say to every student: put up your hand for this opportunity.
“Youth Frontiers gives valuable insights into the next phase of your life – future choices, study options, travel and corporate life. It’s a safe space to discuss your concerns and debate with confidence and support. It’s also fun – you’ll have great discussions, be challenged with exciting activities and participate in projects with impact.”
The benefits of volunteering
Louise is vocal about recommending volunteering to anyone who asks. “It’s a small investment of your time for a far greater reward,” she affirms. “Everyone has a skill to impart to others, even the gifts of listening and time are valuable to our leaders of tomorrow.”
MTC is currently seeking volunteer mentors for the Youth Frontiers program. You don’t need any experience, as we give you training and ongoing support. You just have to want to help, and be the kind of person who connects easily with young people – enthusiastic, motivated, with a few years of experience under your belt!