Celebrating the joy, hope and whanaungatanga in youth mentoring
11 November 2020
University of Auckland youth mentors and counsellors, mentees, mentee family members, and staff from Alternative Education, came together last week to celebrate the end of another successful delivery of the Campus Connections Aotearoa youth development programme.
Rounding up its fourth year, Campus Connections Aotearoa is a youth mentoring initiative, grounded in best practice research, where University of Auckland student mentors and counsellors work with marginalised youth in Alternative Education in the hope of fostering positive relationships and a sense of community.
Student mentors and counsellors are trained before being paired with a mentee and are able to use the experience as credit towards their degrees — many of whom go on to work with and support young people in fields such as youth work, social work, education, counselling and other mental health support services.
For me, the highlight of mentoring other students was being able to share both my experiences from within the classroom and my knowledge of te reo me ona tikanga - the Māori language and protocols.
In a day centered around whānau, food, community and hope, co-directors Dr Pat Bullen and Dr Kelsey Deane noted that whilst Covid-19 lockdowns made it a particularly hard year for traditional forms of mentoring, witnessing the connections formed between student and youth has been, “The highlight of a challenging year.”
They noted that when the mentees arrived on Campus each Wednesday for the programme they were, “A bright light in the week and brought laughter and joy to the Campus.”
Kriss Rapana, one of the mentor coaches and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education student, says he chose the course due to the collaborative nature, his prior experience as a teacher, and his knowledge of te reo me ona tikanga.
“I was attracted to the course because of the practical aspect of working with our youth — especially youth in Alternative Education.
“As a former Intermediate teacher in a South Auckland school, I thought this course would offer me further insight into how best to attune to situations and develop positive youth mentoring skills.
“For me, the highlight of mentoring other students was being able to share both my experiences from within the classroom and my knowledge of te reo me ona tikanga - the Māori language and protocols.”
While Covid-19 posed barriers to the programme, and the University of Auckland students weren’t able to meet with the mentees for extended periods of time (and many youth mentees did not have access to Wifi or a device for online sessions), Kriss says it didn’t stop him and his team of mentors from working together to improve their mentoring skills.
“During the Covid-19 lockdown, as mentors, we were able to meet via Zoom where we would have our lectures, but more importantly, we were able to run through mock scenarios using Zoom breakout rooms, where we were able to put our theory into practice.
“I really enjoyed engaging with the mentors in my team as we built whanaungatanga - positive relationships, as we strived to achieve our collective goals.”
Co-directors Dr Kelsey Deane and Dr Pat Bullen work as Youth Development researchers at the Faculty of Education and Social Work. Their research conducted with youth pre- and post-programme has demonstrated increases in ethnic identity (belonging and exploration), self-efficacy, self-awareness, empathy, and peer support. These results suggest that programme participation is having a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of Campus Connections young people.