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First volunteer gets to work by mentoring city's schoolchildren

A PROJECT to find adults who will help raise the aspirations of some of Glasgow's most disadvantaged young people by becoming their mentor has put its first volunteer to work.

ASPIRATION: Former BP director Gordon Stark is the first Pathways volunteer, mentoring pupils in Glasgow's east end. Picture: Martin Shields
ASPIRATION: Former BP director Gordon Stark is the first Pathways volunteer, mentoring pupils in Glasgow's east end. Picture: Martin Shields

Former Director with BP and engineer Gordon Stark has started mentoring schoolchildren in the city's east end after joining the MCR Foundation's Pathways scheme.

The Pathways project, which is being backed by The Herald, seeks to help children from a care background make it to university and pairs pupils with adults who can help them navigate the road into higher education.

Mr Stark, of Dunblane, said that he wanted to "give something back" after retiring from a globe-trotting career which saw him working on some of the biggest oil extraction projects in the world.

He has previously mentored teenagers through a programme run by the University of Strathclyde, providing them with careers advice and guidance and offering tutoring in technical subjects if it was needed, and decided to continue doing this through the new Pathways project.

The mentoring scheme, which began in St Andrews secondary school, now operates in five schools in the east end of Glasgow and is seeking 200 additional mentors to help boost the further education and job prospects of young people.

Mr Stark said: "Part of my job as a project director was developing younger staff and making sure that they were moving in the right direction.

"I have always mentored people through my work and now that I have retired I have more time to do that on a different level.

"It's about giving them a future example to aspire to. These kids have so many obstacles to overcome, and I hope I can help them realise that they have potential which they can fulfil.

"Everybody can excel at one thing or another and these kids just need help, and a bit of prodding, to find their focus."

During his previous work mentoring young people, the 61-year-old managed to persuade his charges to stay in school and move towards entering higher education.

The programme is run through the schools and teachers match pupils to mentors who have skills they will benefit from.

Mr Stark, a father-of-four, said he enjoyed his time with the youngsters, who are around 15-years-old when they join the scheme.

He said: "The kids are very sharp and they are engaged and switched on with the questions they are asking, and I can provide some of the answers.

"They are not coming from backgrounds where people have the type of experience I have of the wider world, so I just want to make sure that they are aware of the various paths they can follow and help them work out what they are looking for.

"It's a friendly thing. Anyone with experience can do that. We're simply there to be someone they can talk to and ask questions of."

The scheme was set up by Glasgow-born businessman Iain MacRitchie, and has already attracted dozens of volunteers - but more are needed.

Mr MacRitchie said: "As a Glaswegian I knew the response across the city to our Herald campaign for mentors for our most disadvantaged young people would be strong. However, I am completely inspired by the range and volume of interest we have had from individuals across all walks of life and from all corners of the city.

"We have had teachers, mothers, engineers, international business consultants, public sector leaders, NHS workers, careers advisors, mental health professionals, IT specialists, retail gurus, scientists, speech therapists and a range of fantastic retired men and women who are simply keen to 'give something back'.

"A heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you and a call out to ask others to please join us - one hour a week (and travel time) is all you need and a willingness to be there for a young person over the next year or hopefully two. As one mentor put it you have a 'lifetime of experience' to offer and that really counts - please join us."

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