It was Friday afternoon after 4pm, which meant the halls of Whitehill Secondary, in Glasgow’s Dennistoun area, were quiet – except for us. Despite it being the start of the weekend, David*, a 5th year MCR young person, had agreed to meet us in the library with his mum to tell us all about his experience with the Young Glasgow Talent programme and being mentored.
After achieving his Silver Duke of Edinburgh award last term, David and his fellow YGT pupils had become used to meeting at school outside normal hours and they met least once a week over the summer for their Gold preparations. He sounded up for the challenge of the Gold award and made us laugh with his camping stories. But it wasn’t always this way.
Before Young Glasgow Talent
School wasn’t always a lot of fun for David. He struggled occasionally with teachers and some of his peers. He had a few close friends, but was nervous about new situations.
David told us, “I didn’t really like school at all. I used to dread coming in the mornings. There just wasn’t something in school that made me want to come, I didn’t see any positives.”
His mum, Isabel, agreed, “he was very isolated. He didn’t like meeting new people, he spent a lot of time on his own on his computer.”
But since joining the Young Glasgow Talent programme at the beginning of his 4th year, David’s relationship with school has completely shifted.
Mentoring, camping and more
It all started when his friend told him about wanting to do the Duke of Edinburgh Programme.
David had, by that time, started meeting with his mentor, Shawn, and had been working closely with his Coordinator Sharon. In just a short period of time, things were changing.
His mum told us, “he’s not as stressed when he’s coming home from school.”
David felt the same, “I think having someone in the school who’s not with the school is a lot of help. I can leave [issues] at school because there’s someone to drop them off at.”
Shawn would give David advice on problems with friends and celebrated his accomplishments.
But the Duke of Edinburgh was very, very different from mentoring and to say that camping wasn’t his forte would be a bit of an understatement.
He said, “I saw my friends doing Bronze [Duke of Edinburgh] and I laughed. And I said I would never do that, you would never see me going camping and never see me sleeping in a tent overnight in the middle of nowhere.”
But between his friend’s prodding and encouragement from his mentor, David DID sign up. To get the award, young people have to complete four sections – skills, volunteering, physical and embark on an overnight expedition in the wilderness.
David managed to do the first three sections but was hesitant about the last. The expedition and camping – and new things in general – had always made David nervous. But now he had lots of support, from his parents, his Coordinator, his new friends and his mentor.
David tells the story:
“I was quiet scared before going, but once I got there I found it challenging, but at the same time fun. I was doing stuff and seeing stuff that I would never do or see before.”
Which is not to say the trip was easy, he continues, “A challenge I faced on the expedition was the midges, because they were everywhere. I was drinking some Fanta in a plastic cup and I looked in it and it was full of midges. But I shrugged my shoulders and downed the cup because I was really thirsty. Before I did that, even if there was 1 midge I would have never touched it. I’m dead fussy about that kind of thing.”
Despite it being the hottest day of the year, despite the midges and despite all the other challenges he faced, big and small, David completed the expedition and was awarded the Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Gold and beyond
Since finishing his Silver award, David feels confident to tackle nearly any challenge. Just recently, he spent a week at Radio Clyde doing work experience and is an Ambassador for the YGT programme.
He says, “I’ve been representing the school more as well as YGT by speaking to European ministers and council ministers from all around the country. It makes me feel proud and happy that I’m able to do these things. Before I was involved with YGT I wouldn’t have been trusted or I wouldn’t have been thought of when any of these kind of things came up. I wouldn’t have been seen as a good representation of the school.”
His mum shared how proud she feels, “I’ve noticed a change in his aspirations because he’s thinking more about it, whereas before he didn’t really know what he wanted to do. It shows me as a mother that my son is going to have a bright future because he can overcome obstacles. I think as a mother, if I’d said ‘no, you can’t do that’ because of my fears I would regret it because I wouldn’t have got to see how much he can do.”
As for David? “I look forward to coming to school now. I don’t wanna leave until they kick me out.”
Mentoring Matters 2 David and all the young people in our programme. By spending just one hour a week listening and encouraging a young person you can help them completely transform their lives. Become a mentor today!