Loving Lockdown with Learning for Life!

But what is Learning for Life?

Learning for Life is a year-long mentorship program that partners university students with Year 11 students from an underrepresented school. Through the program, our student mentors at Cards for a Cause facilitate the personal and professional growth of their students with our wide range of workshops and weekly mentoring sessions. Our mentors who have previously undertaken VCE, provide fresh and relatable perspectives and aim to guide and support these students through their transition from secondary to tertiary education!

Sounds cool! Can you tell me more about the workshops?
Our workshops enable mentors to teach students invaluable skills that will help them make the most of their high school experience, whilst setting them up for success in their university applications and beyond! Some examples include a public speaking workshop where students were taught how to be more effective public speakers and given opportunities to practice and receive feedback. Another workshop we conducted was all about igniting your dream career! This was designed to help students walk through the process of finding their ideal university course or other tertiary studies, and then helping them create an action plan identifying each step they should take to pursue that pathway! 

That’s amazing! And there’s mentoring too?!
The weekly mentoring sessions enable mentors and mentees to connect on a more individual level. These meetings enable our university students to provide guidance to students on a range of topics specific to the student, to truly help empower and encourage them to maximise their future education and career opportunities. In these sessions, mentees are able to ask mentors for specialised guidance and questions on a variety of topics, whether that be help on finding a part-time job, exploring potential course options, or providing advice on how to do their best academically! Our mentors serve as great role models and support systems for these students, whilst the students also help our university students give back to their community and develop as mentors. 

But what about the lockdown blues? 
Fret not! Despite having multiple lockdowns this year, our workshops and mentoring sessions have gone ahead successfully, which is a real testament to the efforts of our mentors, the interest of our mentees, and the impact this program truly creates! We have adapted many of our workshops and all our mentoring sessions to online platforms such as Zoom and have still been able to connect with students. Although 2021 was our first year running this program, and we faced a few obstacles with lockdowns here and there, Learning for Life has been a success 🎉 and we look forward to implementing this program in future years to really encourage learning for life! 
What do the mentors think?
Here are what some of our amazing student mentors had to say:
"It's been a fantastic opportunity to provide meaningful guidance and support to our mentees. I have found the experience very rewarding and I hope that I have played some part in helping my mentees make the right decisions today in order to access higher education in the future.” - James
Being a part of the program did not only offer me an opportunity to provide motivated students with some of my insights into study techniques and university life. It also allowed me to discover the potential explanations to student engagement issues associated with more vulnerable students. Therefore, I think my contribution to the program does not stop at offering advice and guidance to the students who are already motivated and keen to strive for their goals. But also extended to conduct economic research which has the potential to assist future program design and improve the engagement of the more vulnerable students. Both sides of the coin shall be weighted equally.” - Gloria
“I benefited a lot from the University’s mentorship program last year and feel very happy to pass that on to other mentees. Our program provides workshops related to useful study tips, mental health, job finding and so on which provide help to students during high school and also help them gain insight into University. Being part of their journey and seeing how excited they are about University life really makes me feel fulfilled and rewarding.” - Candice
“Participating in the program as a mentor has been an incredibly fulfilling experience. I've genuinely enjoyed building a meaningful connection with my mentee, and hope that some of the advice I've shared will help them achieve their goals, whatever they may be. I'm grateful for the program as it has also given me the opportunity to reflect on and coherently articulate my own thoughts and experiences. More broadly, Learning for Life has opened my eyes to the world outside of my privileged university bubble. I've come to realise how narrow-minded it is to believe that what we learn in school equates to education. There are so many valuable lessons to be taught outside of the classroom, and I'm glad that I have contributed in some small way to helping young people receive a more well-rounded education.” - Nicole 
“The Learning for Life program offers me a unique opportunity to build relationships with my mentee and reflect on my own development. Our fortnightly catch-ups allow me to step outside of my comfort zone and exchange different ideas with my mentee. It is very fulfilling to assist in my mentee’s journey of exploring various options after high school.” - Joy
“Starting your first year of uni can be pretty challenging, it can be difficult to meet new people amidst the covid environment. However, the Learning for Life team was an incredible initiative that not only allowed you to meet remarkable new people, but also gave you a pathway to make meaningful changes to the lives of younger students.” - Tarun

Why do mentees love us? 
Below are just some of the wonderful feedback we received from our students:
On mentor-mentee meetings, one of our mentees said:
“They've been really helpful actually! My mentor has helped me a lot when I've asked for tips and feedback and I feel as though we've created a strong bond because :)”
When asked what they enjoy most about the program, the students say:
“I like how we're able to connect with people who have just come out of school and are going into uni with the same problems/challenges we have. It's really helpful and gives me an idea for the future when going to uni.”
“Having more information about Uni, and advice from someone who goes there (I found it really great when Robert told me about how his friends prefer science over biomedical because of the opportunities).”
“I like the mentor program because it is good to chat with someone who is a university student and can share their experiences from VCE while I share mine.”
“It was good to be able to have someone to answer my questions and help me. It provides some Clarity about University and Other Life Stuff.”
On the overall experience,
“There's nothing that I haven't enjoyed actually, it's all been very helpful/insightful and my mentor and I get along quite well.” <3 

Written by: Mentoring Team (Noah Collins and Meghana Jonnalagadda)

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