This post was originally published in 2011. The tips and techniques explained may be outdated.
When you were 13, did you already know what you wanted to be? I didn’t.
Did you enjoy doing your homework when you were 13? I didn’t.
And no, I didn’t know how important school and education would be for me and for my life to come. Going to school is simply a fact of life. But it is also safe to say that I would have much rather gone to play handball or to the pool with my friends.
Luckily, things were different for me. Lucky? Yes, I was lucky. I was lucky because I had someone in my life who cared about me. Someone who helped me with my homework, who quizzed me on my vocabulary, who celebrated together with me when I brought a good grade home and who comforted me when the grade wasn’t so good. But not everyone has that. There are more than enough children and young adults who are on their own and only a minority of them have the drive to steer their own lives onto the right course at just 13.
That is precisely the point at which “MENSCH – Mentoring for Students”, in which SMA employees take part, comes into the picture. The program, organized by Jumpers e.V., is geared toward secondary students at the lower end of the educational spectrum (in Germany: Hauptschule) who are close to graduating, that is, in the ninth or tenth grade. Students with limited career perspectives are mentored and accompanied for 16 months. The goal is to show the mentees different perspectives, to motivate them, to give them the feeling that they are valuable members of society, and that there is someone who is interested in them and in their lives. The concrete goal is that the students graduate from school after the 16 months and have an apprenticeship lined up at that point. The best outcome is that the students will decide to go on and complete the final two years of school!
What takes place during a mentoring meeting?
It is not only the mentee who benefits from the program. I, as a mentor, learned more and more with each time we met. Seeing the world from the perspective of a 13-year old is exciting. Their worries and fears are so different from the issues that concerned me at that age. I don’t know what it’s like to truly fear for my future or feel a lack of perspective. Feeling written off and left out of society are foreign to me. In such moments, I have to swallow hard and then realize just how good I actually have it. I try to give my mentee support, motivation, and strength for making dreams come true. It does her good when I show her that she is the focal point of our meetings and that I am giving her my undivided attention, that I take her dreams seriously and that I am there to help her make those dreams come true. We now meet every 2 to 3 weeks for coffee or hot chocolate or to get a pizza, usually in downtown Kassel. The shyness I felt at the beginning is continues to subside and I am happy to say that our relationship has since developed into a true friendship.
Yesterday was the big day: the milestone celebration at SMA.
The program was launched in August 2011 and the milestone celebration served as an opportunity to come together and talk with all mentees, mentors, and the students’ parents as a group. In addition to the mentees, mentors, and parents, the organizers and teachers from the IGS Kaufungen School were also invited. The three winners were given their apprenticeship positions, tours of SMA were conducted, and participants were given a chance to talk over sandwiches and soft drinks. Sadly, my mentee’s parents didn’t come – but I think we had a grand evening together all the same.