No shortage of volunteers for Aussie high school mentoring program

Jaymes Lorenzi and Shaun Mondelly in class with their online mentors. Picture: Bruce Hunt   d438474
Jaymes Lorenzi and Shaun Mondelly in class with their online mentors. Picture: Bruce Hunt d438474

A RECORD number of volunteers have signed up to help Australian high school students meet their study and career goals through The Smith Family’s annual iTrack online mentoring program, which started in May.

In WA, 92 students in eight schools across the state are participating.

Students Jaymes Lorenzi and Shaun Mondelly are both recipients of the scheme at Kiara Senior high school which runs a vital partnership with the Smith Family.

For an hour each week over two school terms, the boys are part of a class of students communicate with their mentors via a secure online monitored chat room from their own school desk.

Their mentors help them to identify their strengths, consider possible avenues to further education and future employment via the computer.

WA general manager of the Smith Family Lorna Woodley, said iTrack was developed more than 10 years ago in response to research revealing that many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds disengage from their education and drop out of school during their teenage years.

“The impact of growing up in disadvantage creates barriers that can make it even more difficult to see the benefit of completing Year 12 and, unfortunately, we know that leaving school early affects later work options,” Ms Woodley said.

“Many disadvantaged young people lack access to positive role models and mentors who can support their expectations, build aspirations for the future and learn how to reach their career goals.

The use of iTrack has been proven to make a difference for students, allowing students to develop a better understanding of the links between study and future career paths.

“The anonymity of the student/mentor pairing means students often quickly feel at ease in sharing their hopes, problems and ambitions with an objective adult, whose interests have been matched to those of their students.”

The Smith Family’s 2014 review of the scheme showed that 88 per cent of students in the scheme felt that their mentor had helped them to be more positive about future career and study options.