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Support for teenagers at risk of destroying their lives
12 September 2016
Disengaging as an adolescent might be a common occurrence but common doesn’t make it okay. The encouraging evidence from the Raise Foundation is that mentoring adolescents at risk of disengaging – and, by definition, isolation - makes a difference. The not for profit, which delivers best practice youth mentoring programs, has found that following involvement in its mentoring programs 79 percent of students would ask an adult for help and 80 percent would now accept help if they found themselves in need of it.
Isolation can have tragic consequences, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, suicide, drug use.
We spoke with Raise Founder and CEO Vicki Condon (above) about the Foundation’s work mentoring young people to re-engage with education, employment, their peers, and family.
Raise runs two main programs nationally: one for high school boys and girls in which there are around 700 students. The second program, Bump, has 100 young girls in it who are pregnant or parenting and under the age of 23.
Four key points differentiate the Foundation from its competitors in the space.
Firstly: all volunteers must complete a TAFE accredited training course in mentoring (15 hours of training)
Secondly: the program counsellors are qualified and attend the programs with the trained volunteer mentors and the mentees. The groups meet safely and securely on school grounds and within the school day.
Programs are one on one and face to face but whole group meets at the same time and the qualified counsellors are there to supply further support.
Thirdly, Raise carries out a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative evaluation of its programs - pre and post surveys for mentors and mentees. The surveys assess, for example, the ability at the beginning and the end of the program of the mentees to form and maintain relationships with parents, friends, teachers, etc. They also assess engagement in education and employment of the young person among a number of other personal and inter-personal skills.
The final differentiator is economic. Raise runs its programs at considerably less cost than others, partly through running a variable workforce model: “We are actually about a third of the cost of many other youth mentoring organisations. We have 48 staff running our 68 programs but everyone works part time and from home, mostly, so we don’t have huge overheads. Our tiny head office is just a small space where we can gather when necessary. Otherwise we utilise technology: the cloud, Skype, etc.”
Diversity of staff and volunteers is an issue for Raise and the organisation is working hard to address it.
“Traditionally the area has attracted women,” says Vicki.
“This year our female volunteers made up 74 percent of our mentors, and our guys increased, which is really positive, especially when you consider the majority of mentees in the schools program are boys,” explains Vicki, who continues on to note that amongst the women there is a great diversity of culture and nationality.
Funding for Raise comes from various areas including fundraising events, community grants, donations, corporate partnerships, and the NSW Government. The Dee Why Bump program on Sydney’s Northern Beaches is sponsored by Westpac, for example.
“I know of girls who have been asked to leave school because they are pregnant. Getting them re-engaged with education and ultimately employment is so important. The Bump and Bump Up programs do that through the TAFE system,” says Vicki.
If you’re interested in helping change the direction of a young person’s life, it takes about one hour a week. By listening and actually hearing what a young person has to say, you can make all the difference. Sign up and become a Raise mentor now.