Sadly, the mentoring program with Young Londoners Funds (YLF) came to an end at the end of 2022.
The overall aim of the mentoring programme, which started on the 1st of January 2020, was to reduce youth violence while bringing families and local communities together, with the purpose of restructuring Croydon’s children’s services. The efforts of the program targeted young people aged 10 to 16 experiencing trauma and at risk of exclusion and criminal activity, as identified and referred by schools in the local area (particularly, the Archbishop Tenison School, Quest Academy and Quest primary school).
As explained by Hutchinson Dawn – the Safeguard and Welfare Officer from Archbishop Tenison School – the students referred to the program presented a variety of challenging behaviours, both at school and at home. They were uncommunicative, shy, insecure, disengaged and sometimes frightened or aggressive.
Throughout the duration of the mentoring programme, the mentor, Sherena McCalla, carried out a multitude of activities aimed at identifying and addressing the children’s needs and challenges. Sherena offered 1-2-1 counselling and support as well as group mentoring sessions based on their needs – for instance, improving social and personal skills while achieving personal goals. During these sessions, the mentees were engaged in expression sessions (including music and art therapy); confidence-building, self-love, self-care and self-esteem tools and techniques; anger management activities (i.e. how to regulate emotions and manage change).
All activities were built on the foundation of the personal development plan (PDP) – a tool deriving from the choice theory which encompasses comfort zone, basic needs, personal and social skills, and goal setting.
Sherena was patient and encouraging with all students and advised school staff about alternative approaches to students as well as safeguarding processes and procedures.
The outcomes were overwhelmingly positive, as also happily reported by the Archbishop Tenison School, who said one should see the students to truly understand the impact Sherena had on them – as well as hear the praises of their enthusiastic parents.
Positive outcomes, both expected and unexpected, include:
- a general reduction in mental health difficulties
- undiagnosed SENs have now been identified and are receiving adequate support
- better relationships, both in school with peers and staff and with the family
- thanks to a non-conventional mentor and in combination with other courses, the young people attending the program were able to express themselves, finding hidden talents and interests
- all students took part in an 8-week filmmaking program based around subjects of interest – for instance, they were able to produce a short piece about what it’s like to be Black and British.
Particularly, Hutchinson said that they saw a vast difference in the behaviour of all the students since they started the program: the communication has improved, all students are more confident, motivated, engaged even before the lesson, and they improved their behaviour in class. Staff are also more capable to address difficult students and have built extremely positive relationships with Sherena.
We are extremely glad to have been a part of making this mentoring programme happen and to receive such positive feedback. We thank everyone that has been a part of this, from the Young Londoners Fund to the schools, our wonderful mentor Sherena and Dawn Hutchinson from the Archbishop Tenison School for the time taken to express the incredible feedback. We look forward to future projects and everything the future has in store, hoping we will have the opportunity to replicate the experience and make a difference in more young people’s lives to help them achieve their potential. For now, check out our end-of-year recap to see all we achieved in 2022!