Meet the brightest stars leading their own peer mentoring scheme
This month we have a special guest blog, from Manesha and Sophie who won Future Stars three years ago, when it started off as a competition.
Three years ago, Mr Clarke, our Economics teacher, pointed his GCSE economists in the direction of the regional Globalbridge Futurestars competition whereby the challenge was “to develop an idea that promotes an opportunity for your region”. Having caught our attention, we decided to enter, developing the idea of peer mentoring in schools. The idea won first place, and the following year we were set to have two tickets to attend Newcastle Start-Up Week, working with business-leaders to develop and launch the idea, which was very exciting indeed. But then came the COVID-19 pandemic, which shook all plans to the floor. With little to none face-to-face human interaction during this period, it was difficult to set in motion our idea that depended on the very thing. But soon enough, when we began seeing glimpses of normality returning to College, we took the opportunity to create YouTeach.
YouTeach is at its heart a student-led mentoring scheme. Our vision was to help younger students access support in a way that wasn’t heavily reliant on technology or the internet.
There are many online courses to help students privileged enough to access them - but we wanted to set up a scheme that would help our local community. YouTeach does this by connecting students from older years with students from younger years as part of a mentoring scheme. Our intention was to create a mutually beneficial relationship - mentees would be given the time to explore their academics further, whilst mentors would obtain a sense of purpose and consolidate their own knowledge. Joseph Joubert’s quote, “to teach is to learn twice” was particularly on our minds as we proposed and then implemented our ideas, acknowledging that ‘while we teach, we learn’. What makes YouTeach unique is that the programme is almost entirely led by students, allowing them to take the responsibility to lead and execute. All mentoring takes place outside lesson time, and a lot of admin work is also carried out by us as founders with the support of teachers.
How does Economics come into the picture, you may be asking. There is the slight misconception - or information failure - among students that Economics is wholly based on graphs, numbers, and lots of theory. Perhaps this is true in an academic sense, but it is fascinating being able to notice the intersection of theory into the real world where links can be drawn in almost all the decisions that are made. For instance, we witnessed at times there was a disequilibrium, where demand for mentors exceeded supply, proving mentors to be a scarce resource in the functioning of the programme. However, we hope that as YouTeach grows in the future, this shortage can easily be corrected as more mentors are willing and able to supply their time and patience to help budding learners reach their potential. Hardly an opportunity cost in that decision! More fundamentally, students of Economics will be aware that ‘enterprise’ is an integral factor of production, without which, ideas and innovation cannot be fostered to create the change we wish to see. In that sense, Economics offers the possibility and tools needed to explore opportunities to ‘spot gaps in the market’ and make a difference.
Having established YouTeach towards the end of 2021, we were surprised to see there was great demand within the first few weeks and a push for students to get involved. If you had peeped through the Granary windows during co-curricular time, you would have witnessed the pleasant camaraderie between mentees and mentors. It’s hard to describe, but this teamwork and interaction between the older students and lower school has shown to be something quite natural and certainly humbling for mentors as they too have once been in the position of their mentees.
For something that just started as an entrepreneurial idea for a competition, we are beyond delighted of the promising mark it has made over the past few months. Looking to the future, we hope to see YouTeach grow, as more students are inspired to become mentors themselves. We believe this is a great opportunity for students to make a difference in the school community as they use their skills and impart the knowledge and wisdom they have gained over the years to help budding learners reach their potential!