At GT Scholars we have a great team of volunteer tutors and mentors that are passionate about helping young people learn, grow, and achieve their goals in life. We have regular spotlight interviews with our volunteers where they share a bit more about themselves and why they chose to volunteer. Here is a recent interview with one of our volunteer mentors – Jason
Tell me a bit more about yourself
My name is Jason & I am 37 years old, and my parents were refugees from the Vietnam War, so my heritage is Vietnamese, but I was born in London. I had a strict & traditional upbringing, and it was difficult for my parents to lift that culture within an environment that they were not familiar with.
I had to work through problems and difficulties in school and eventually went to university. Unfortunately, I dropped out of university because the course was not what I’d expected, and that was a defining moment for me where I had to make a big decision for myself without consulting with my family. Since then, I have had various jobs, and I now work for the NHS as a contract manager.
In my day to day life, I am married to a wonderful wife, I have a dog and work all the time, but work is like play for me! As part of my job, and also as an extracurricular activity, I am a mentor for adults, people at different levels, including people who are more senior than me within the NHS.
Why did you apply to GT Scholars?
I was tackling issues with people who were already at an older age and could not turn back the time, so I thought it would be quite useful to help young people and to make sure that they have more confidence in the future.
When I was an A level student, my family, friends, and I thought that I would be going to university, and also believed that I would get a degree. I dropped out of university, and it was a difficult decision to make, but I had to stand by that. Today I want to help young people to make the right decisions for them, and also be confident with the decisions they make.
What was the joining process like?
The process of joining GT Scholars was quite robust. As part of the process, a DBS check was done and also training for child protection and safeguarding.
Did you have any expectations when you started?
When I started, I didn’t have any expectations and approached it with an open mind. I would advise that a volunteer should go into it without any expectations, cause you won’t know what to expect and you can do your best with the situation given. I faced challenges along the way, but it was a positive experience to engage with both the mentee and also the parents. What you tend to find is that parents want their child to be mentored or tutored, and the challenge is to start getting the young person engaged and open to receive the support.
Did you experience any challenges?
I’ve worked with a few mentees, and sometimes it can be a bit challenging, mainly because they don’t understand why they are there. You can support and help them through that, to understand the benefits of having a mentor or tutor. Other times the mentee can be very receptive and engaging, which makes the process easier.
A challenge that I can improve on is getting the mentee more engaged. As time goes by, the mentee might be thinking that you are just repeating the same old advice, so you have to keep it interesting. It is important to stay connected in between your sessions. When I’ve had any problems whatsoever, GT Scholars would be one phone call away, and they’re very responsive.
What was your most recent mentee like?
My first meeting with Daniel and his mum was very positive and interesting. They came to my office, and we sat down for a couple of hours and could have gone on for longer, but we had to go home. What stood out the most for me, was Daniel’s relationship with his mum and the way they engaged with me together. I knew from then that this was someone that I could genuinely help and guide.
What was your mentoring experience with Daniel like?
We worked around certain themes, one of them being for Daniel to be more confident with himself and trying to be more confident with the decisions he makes. We also talked about his independence, being less reliant on other people, and getting ready for adulthood. One of Daniel’s qualities that stood out was that he was very interested in what I had to say. When I gave him advice or talked through situations, what I said seemed to resonate with him, and he was able to take it away and then continue discussions when he came back.
Would you say mentoring is valuable for young people?
Mentoring is valuable for young people to get a chance to talk to another adult who they are not familiar with, talking to someone who doesn’t know them, so they get a chance to start again on a clean slate. Mentoring is also valuable for young people who want to bounce ideas off people who might already have experience in the area they are interested in.
Did you receive support throughout the programme?
I received regular support and would often get a call or an email checking in. Every quarter we would have to submit some reports and I had some technical difficulties. Marilyn helped me out with the issue and helped me get through my paperwork. We also received regular newsletters about what’s happening in the organisation. This was really great to have because it keeps you in touch with everyone else and gives you an idea of what else is happening out there.
What would you say to people who want to join the programme?
I would say that you’ll need to be prepared for how different you may find your mentee, you may be worlds apart. You’ll have to be a good communicator with parents and mentees. Be sure to back up your words with action, always practice what you preach and don’t give out advice that you don’t actually follow yourself, because you won’t be able to get the confidence from your mentee. Make sure that you are in a good place before committing time to help others because they will be relying on you.