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Volunteers put young people first

Volunteers put young people first

As National Volunteer Week kicks off today, First Foundation is thanking its volunteers for providing life-changing support to talented young New Zealanders.

Each year, more than 250 volunteers nationwide give up their time, skills and energy to mentor students in the First Foundation scholarship programme.

“We’re so grateful to our mentors for everything they do to encourage and inspire the next generation of successful young Kiwi adults,” says First Foundation mentor co-ordinator Nicola Betts.

“Our mission is to help academically talented students, who are worthy of support, to achieve their potential through tertiary education. We simply couldn’t do this without our incredible mentors, who each spend about 30 hours a year offering one-on-one guidance to scholars.”

Educational trust First Foundation awards 50 scholarships annually and, alongside receiving financial support and paid work experience, each student is matched with a mentor during their four-year journey.

“Most of our mentors are successful working professionals who’ve decided to give back by sharing their advice and experience with the next generation,” says Nicola. “They also provide a much-needed listening ear or uplifting word when students are going through a challenging time.”

For every paid member of staff, First Foundation has 23 volunteer mentors.

Well-known companies such as Spark, Fletcher Building, Xero and Air New Zealand are among those who have partnered with First Foundation to provide mentors.

Auckland executive coach Sheree Nicholas has been a First Foundation mentor since 2004 and says it has been a hugely rewarding experience.

“It’s made me a much more rounded person. I’ve got so much out of watching these talented young people grow into incredible adults. You learn so much from the relationship too – it gives your life more pragmatism.”

Sheree strongly encourages others to consider becoming a mentor and says “it’s not onerous at all”.

“When some people consider being a mentor, they often say, ‘But I have no value to add’. The thing is, you’re not mentoring them in art or engineering. You are an adult who is offering to support them through a challenging time in their life.

“You’re not mentoring kids who’ve gone off the rails. They are all really incredible kids; some of them just want time. It might only be once a month – sometimes more when there are decisions to be made.”

First Foundation is currently looking for new mentors to support its 2020 scholars.

“We’d love to hear from anyone who’d like to know more about becoming a mentor,” says Nicola. “I truly believe everyone has something to offer a young person, whether it be through their own learning journey or life experiences.”

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