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Appeal for mentors to nurture children's ambitions

Volunteers who join a groundbreaking project that aims to raise the aspirations of disadvantaged young people need only be skilled in opening doors to further opportunities, its founder has said.

Mentor: Programme manager Nyree Tobias. Picture: Martin Shields

Businessman Iain MacRitchie said adults who become mentors to the children in the MCR Pathways project do not need to have specific skills to teach, but are there to show their charges how to make positive changes in their lives.

The mentoring scheme operates in six schools in Glasgow's east end and has already been instrumental in helping youngsters from chaotic backgrounds turn their lives around.

It has attracted dozens of volunteers but needs more, and the Glasgow-born entrepreneur has called on those who can share not only their expertise but also their life experience to steer the teenagers in the right direction.

Mr MacRitchie said: "This is an education-based programme and what we're trying to do is give that young person a better educational outcome, more learning opportunities and a positive life experience.

"This is not social work. It's about education. Three pathways are very important and very distinct. They're not mutually exclusive; you can change them.

"There's one to higher education, for those who have the interest and aptitude for that. The second one is for qualifications that can get them into a job, and the third is for those who are disengaged from education entirely."

He added: "In terms of our mentors, its important for them to have skills in these three areas. It's the skill to be able to open a door for a vulnerable young person, not just be able to teach them a skill."

Those who join the programme can expect to be mentoring a young person within six weeks, and adults from all walks of life are needed.

Nyree Tobias, programme manager, said her own experience working in the project had shown her the most important thing is to build up a relationship of trust. She said: "I had some fears at first. It's difficult working with adults and even young adults, and this time I was working with children.

"So there was a lot of fear and apprehension around it. But I've learned that I had to get rid of some of that fear.

"How I related to it was thinking about when I had my son. I came out of hospital and was absolutely petrified because there was no rulebook or guidelines telling me what to do.

"I was able to get past that and realise there isn't a rulebook - it's about building a relationship."

The programme is run through schools, with teachers matching pupils to mentors with skills that could benefit them.

Training takes place over a month while the candidate is matched up with a suitable young person.

Ms Tobias said honesty is

vital: "I just decided I was going to be totally open and honest and always be clear with them about what I was doing and what my purpose was - which is the young person.

"I really let them get to know me. These young people have so many adults in their lives and they all have their own agendas.

"But it was important for them to know that my agenda was them themselves. That was where we started from."

"While we're working with the mentor we're also working with the child because while a week may seem a short time to us, to a child it can seem as long as a month, so it's important to get things up and running quickly."

To get involved, visit http://www.mcrpathways.org/#herald

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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