Eastbourne school celebrates female mentoring scheme: It’s an ‘amazing experience’
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Over the past 12 months, 20 students at Willingdon Community School have received monthly one-to-one mentoring sessions.
The scheme is led by The Girls’ Network – an organisation that works to inspire and empower girls from the least advantaged communities by connecting them with professional female role models.
Now that the Willingdon students have completed their mentoring year, they become ambassadors for The Girls’ Network.
Rebecca Jewitt, network manager at The Girls’ Network, said, “Mentoring is a great tool for supporting young women to shape the future they choose, and we are delighted to see the positive outcomes it can have as we celebrate the journey at Willingdon Community School.”
Alison Borrell, careers leader at Willingdon, said the scheme was oversubscribed – 50 girls from Year 9-11 applied for the 20 available spaces.
She said, “We’d love to do it again, it’s been really successful.”
Mentors are women who live and work in the same region as their mentee. The Girls’ Network train the mentors who can offer insight into the working world and connections for networking opportunities.
Lynne Chiswick has mentored through the programme before and she said it’s an ‘amazing experience’.
Lynne, whose background is in education, said, “It’s one of the most important things you can do to help a young woman access all the things she wants to do.
“For me, education is the key for young women to develop their skills, become leaders, and shape strategy. It’s all about empowering young women and enabling them to have the opportunities they want.”
Now Lynne is part of Soroptimist International, a worldwide volunteer organisation for women who work to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and around the world. She said the scheme is a ‘wonderful fit’ with Soroptimism.
Lynne said, “It’s wonderful to see how the mentees develop through the year and I’d really recommend it.”
It was Fiona Hill’s first year as a mentor and due to her background in a female networking group she said when she heard about the scheme she wanted to ‘give something back to someone else’.
Fiona said, “It was a real privilege to have youngsters share their aspirations with you and talk through things. I’ve learnt from it and I hope Hannah has too. It’s worth getting involved with because we can support other women – fantastic!”
Hannah Sewell was Fiona’s mentee. She said she joined the scheme because she was unsure about her future after Willingdon.
Hannah said, “I didn’t feel like I had any work experience so thought I didn’t have anything good to put on my CV that would make me stand out.”
Due to covid restrictions, Hannah’s work experience opportunities were cancelled.
She said, “Now I’ve realised I don’t necessarily need work experience and I got help writing my CV too. I realised I already had experiences that were worthy of going on my CV. It made me proud of things I’d already done that I’d considered to be insignificant – those things can be meaningful to my future too.”
Hannah also worked on interview skills with her mentor which helped getting into sixth form.
Not only that, the scheme has helped Hannah realise that she wants to go into art rather than science after GCSEs.
She said, “I’ve changed my mind and this has helped with that because the scheme has forced me to consider my future. I realised I didn’t want a career in science at all. I don’t have a passion for it. Art is where my passion is. I think I would have realised this, but potentially too late if I hadn’t been part of the scheme. The Girls’ Network mentoring scheme helped me realise these things before it was too late.”
Mentee Lily Murray found the scheme helped her realise what she should do after school like Hannah. For Lois Wynne-Webster it was all about building confidence.
She said, “I’ve always been very nervous, one of my biggest fears is talking to people so I decided to join because I was told it would help with that and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with life.
“The first time I met my mentor we were similar in personality – she was nervous like me so we really got on. From the beginning of the scheme my confidence just went up and up. It was really nice to have that person there throughout to help me and reassure me.”
Similarly, Olivia Bowden wanted the confidence to apply for college. She said, “I didn’t have confidence and was struggling with keeping a balance over my studies and my mentor really helped with that. I’ve now applied to college, found a course I want to do and found a job I’d like to do in the future too.
“She went above and beyond with me. She got a university student to come on one of our calls and talk about being an English student and I got to see university essays. It also helped me with knowing how to remain calm and moderate my studies to keep a good work/life balance. I’d definitely recommend it to others.”