Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Students Give a Helping Hand

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Students Give a Helping Hand

Article excerpt

Students at Durham University are making a real difference to the lives of children in care in County Durham.

Over the past four years, Collingwood College, one of the University's 16 resident collegiate bodies, has recruited some of its students to become mentors to teenagers in public care, in association with Durham County Council.

This is just one of dozens of community activities in which students from Durham and Queen's Campus in Stockton are involved.

This particular Collingwood initiative can quite often see students, including some from prestigious public schools, creating very close, one-to-one companionships with young people with whom they would otherwise never come into contact.

The mentors are rigorously interviewed and trained. Each mentor works one-to-one, one afternoon a week, with his or her mentee ( and it is the mentee who sets the agenda. Professor Jane Taylor, Principal of Collingwood College, said: "It is a sad fact that very few children in care continue their education beyond the age of 16, with some ending up living rough on the streets.

"Collingwood College was delighted to get involved in this project with the County Council and there is little doubt that it has enriched the lives of both the students and the young people they befriend.

"This year we have 36 students working one-to-one with young people who may be in a children's home, with foster parents or who can be classified as being at risk. We make it very clear to them that this is a big commitment and something that they need to put real time and effort into."

All students at the College are contacted initially by email at the beginning of the University year and asked to attend an initial briefing session if they feel this is a project they would like to get involved in. Those who commit are then provided with two days' training that offers them advice on the role of a mentor, how to offer help on specific issues and how to deal with matters that could be classified as confidential.

The young people could be based in any town or village in County Durham and are normally in the age range 15 to 16, although this year some as young as 12 are also involved. …

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