Input provided by Berenika Kusová & Markéta Michalcová, students in BA Humanities students at Charles University

Edited by Erika Irabor & Mattia Troiano

The student lab at Mentoring Europe has collected inputs from two international students who joined the EMS 2022 and have provided inputs on the workshops they have attended throughout the three-day summit. The following two paragraphs are testimonials from two Czech bachelor’s students followed by a summary of the workshop sessions they attended. After each summary, the two students shared their personal perspectives on how the four workshops they had the chance to follow, namely Mentoring for school success, How to help mentors to work on educational objectives within the framework of mentoring with children and youngsters, Mentoring as a necessity for maintaining professionalism and skills for women: A participation model, and The Voice of mentees.

This Summit was the first event I was going to present with my friend Berenika. I was preparing a poster about the project Encounter which I am working on right now for my thesis. At first, I was a bit nervous about it because I did not know what to expect. When I was there, however, my fears faded away. I found interesting people and nourishing conversations. The atmosphere was friendly, and human-centred like it is always in the mentoring field. The poster presentation went well, and I am glad that I could share my work with others and listen to their feedback. A big THANK YOU to the whole organisational team.

– Markéta Michalcová

As a bachelor’s student from the Czech Republic, I joined the Summit with the expectation not to have anything to contribute to the discussions. Yet this turned out not to be the case. What I have experienced during the EMS2022 went beyond my imagination. Everyone seemed friendly and interested in my contributions. I connected with fellow friends of mentoring, both at the student and older age. I found the workshops provided very enriching and useful to my personal growth and development. I have always wanted to experience what a human-centred Summit like this looks and feels like and am grateful for this opportunity.

– Berenika Kusová

Mentoring for school success

Organisation: University of Applied Sciences Rotterdam, NL

Facilitator/s: Loïs Schenk, Margriet Clement and Patrick Sins.

Mentors of Rotterdam is a school-based programme that connects yearly 1500 students at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and vocational studies as a student-mentor to more than 1500 mentees of primary and secondary schools. The programme lasts 20 weeks. During this time, mentors help mentees mainly with future career orientation, based on their talents, ambitions, and indeed personal development goals beyond technical skills growth. These latter include interpersonal skills, self-confidence, study skills, and many more, always mentees centred.

The core question at the heart of the project and thus this EMS2022 workshop is: how can student mentors support career orientation purposes of fellow students, i.e. their mentees? As usually happens in mentoring, the workshop givers have emphasised that there are more answers to this question. Student mentors can contribute to the career orientation of mentees by providing an understanding of the school system, requirements, and possibilities, understanding of own abilities, strengths, but also challenges, and areas of improvements and growth still to be explored. By aiming at boosting mentees’ confidence in themselves so as to make them gain a more positive personal representation and identification of themselves in the present but also of course in their future. Mentors are interested in mentees and focus on their interests.

This research is still at the beginning, it will develop, implement, and evaluate an evidence-informed Mentors of Rotterdam approach aimed at effectively improving mentees’ self-regulated learning. There will be interviews with mentors and mentees about their relationship and about the toolbox they used. There will be interviews with mentors and mentees about their relationship and about the toolbox they used.

During the workshop, after a more theory-focused initial part, presentation hosts asked us to concretely take part in one activity that the organisation employs as a tool to facilitate and make mentoring matches, namely the Motivation Thermometer. Thisis used for gaining insights into the processes that increase or decrease the motivation of pupils and into the steps that they can take to ultimately reach their goal. Mentoring practitioners draw a thermometer with a scale division of 0-10 and they put on the scale answers to the five questions about motivation. The most attention was caught by question number 5: what have you already achieved in life?

Some attendees found perhaps such question too distant from young people. Despite its simple concept, such activity was both challenging and very inspiring from my own personal perspective as the identification of already achieved goals at such a young age might still represent an important challenge.

I have incredibly appreciated the engagement that the activity and the hosts have required us as well as the ongoing interaction with questions from the audience they have allowed.

How to help mentors to work on educational objectives within the framework of mentoring with children and youngsters

Organisation: Afev, ES

Facilitators: Nuria Bienvenido and Joke Aerts

AFEV Spain developed mentoring projects from a holistic perspective, using mentoring relationships as a means for children and youngsters to develop academic skills, personal autonomy, language, social skills, and more in general to support them according to the specific needs of the identified target group or groups.

They approach the relationship in a holistic context, making sure to collaborate with mentors, families, schools, universities, social services. The aim in this sense is to involve all actors and stakeholders that can contribute to make mentoring experiences or projects effective in their envisaged scope. In that context, they have translated this scientific evidence into working definitions of the educational objectives that they want to develop in mentoring relationships, testifying the benefit of an evidence-informed practice of mentoring. Or as in the Mentoring Europe community they would say, by bringing together a mutually beneficial exchange between research and practice.

The pursued educational objectives that AFEV Spain maintains at the core of its work are the improvement of youngsters’ self-esteem and motivation, the provision of a better and more effective academic orientation, the prevention or mitigation of school dropouts, and socio-economic isolation, also by challenging rooted critical view towards others and thus promotion of diversity also through the improvement of youngsters’ language skills. In the AFEV Spain model, mentors and mentees meet once a week for two hours for one year. At the beginning of this relationship, they don’t know each other and therefore they both start from scratch in a mutual discovery and getting to know process which becomes a stimulus for commitment and ongoing inspiration throughout the year, not only for mentees but also for mentors.

Their website offers a library of very useful tools and best practices they have been working with to achieve the broad set of objectives mentioned above. There are cards for every envisaged objective, and most of the time tools to facilitate processes that take place in institutions like schools, unable often to make class migration or level transition smooth experiences. The website also offers many activities that mentors and mentees can do to get to know each other and grow together. What surprised me the most among the vast inspiring take-aways from this workshop, is that, as workshop givers have emphasised, at the beginning of each year of the programme mentors do not know anything about their mentees, so they both start their journey together from the very same start!

At the end of this workshop, and after presenting the theory and practices of their mentoring programmes, we in the audience were asked to participate in discussions emerging from their activity cards, those same cards that mentors and mentees can use to start getting to know and discover more about each other. Inspiring discussions emerged and the idea of making the cards available in English was launched. So we look forward to seeing such a possible tool available to the broader European network of fellow mentoring programmes!

Mentoring as a necessity for maintaining professionalism and skills for women: A participation model

Organisation: The International Women Centre, NL

Facilitators: Marlies Pfann & Peter van Deursen

The International Women’s Centre (IVC) stands for the empowerment of humans towards social self-reliance and financial independence.

Most of the women coming in touch with IVC are immigrants. They struggle at different levels. Some are job seekers who cannot find work placements due to invalid documentation, others have language difficulties and find it more challenging to adapt to the new cultures. Coming from a non-EU country can make the integration process a socially but also personally challenging experience that not all newcomers can master successfully.

And this is where IVC comes into play. The programme helps women to find jobs that suit their abilities and talents as many refugees and immigrants have problems getting work in the Netherlands at the level they are trained for.

Solutions to the stated problems are provided by the International Women’s Center through the so-called IVC Participation Ladder Model. It provides participants with a follow-up system, Pré-VPL, and VPL training. The IVC Participation Ladder Model is a scientifically validated framework with European recognition. It focuses on climbing the ladder, i.e. personal growth, self-development, and becoming more powerful. During the Pré VPL and VPL training, participants learn how to rely on each other to carry out assignments, expand their network, and use their newly-made contacts to realise their dream and set their own goals and a clearer path towards their achievement.

The IVC programme organises activities and projects where migrant women also learn about different cultures to remove prejudices with the goal of mutual integration. One of these activities was also tried in this workshop, namely the Ecogram. The main purpose of this activity was to indicate connections that participants have with other people or institutions, and the quality and value they see in them by drawing circles with arrows based on how strong and how mutual – if at all – the connection is.

We received a lot of information about the IVC programme which was really interesting to listen to. We also highly appreciated the workshop hosts explaining the role of the mentor in their programme and how important mentors actually are. We did an interactive session where everyone had to fill out an “ecogram”. I took part in the exercise which deepened my newly learned knowledge and pushed me to put that into practice already.

As a key mission of Mentoring Europe and this very edition of the EMS, we are glad that this experience gave me a mixture of theory and practice. I enjoyed being in an international group, whose members shared a human-centric approach to their daily work and beyond. It was a nice experience that I was able to follow and now I can say that I know more about mentoring than ever before!

The Voice of Mentees

Organisation: MentorProgramma Friesland, NL

Facilitator/s: Kamilla Górczynska & Hanane Azarzar

MentorProgramma Friesland is one of  Mentoring Europe’s partner organisations.The programme aims at helping students in vocation secondary (MBO) and higher education (HBO) through mentoring. Mentees are matched with mentors coming from different backgrounds. These mentors can very often be recent graduates who are now seeking to help others to successfully finish their studies. However, they can also be working professionals and older role models. Students are supported and empowered by their mentors who help them make choices and set goals in life.

The workshop MentorProgramma Friesland hosted at the EMS 2022 introduced us to the mentees’ perspectives on how they define successful mentoring relationships. The primary question asked during the workshop moment was:

What do students find most meaningful in a mentoring relationship?

During the first round, each group was given cards with words such as self-confidence, motivation, acceptance, guidance, safety, role model, fun, love, and independence aiming at opening the floor for discussions on what the students find most meaningful in mentoring relationships. The cards reflected key terms on what students generally find meaningful in mentoring relationships. The challenge was to select the top five most meaningful words based on the students perspective. Once the first activity was over all groups presented and explained their findings. 

In the next round, new groups were formed this time with both the students and participants.

Together they discussed the lists from the students previously made and moved on to create new lists. The new list included the perspectives of both parties – the students and the participants. Again, the results were presented in front of the whole group. In the end we dived deeper into the meanings of the words on the cards. Interestingly, each person defined the words differently. For example safety between a mentor and mentee can mean a safe space but it can also mean something completely different.

All of these insights were reflected in the final round along with some personal stories about mentors and mentees. The workshop showed and embraced that mentees have a story to tell and that it is crucial to hear what they are saying.  

What surprised us the most was the debate on what the students find most meaningful in mentoring and what instead adults think young people find most meaningful in mentoring, because it is very valuable for me to realise what my fellow students have to say. Since everyone has a different interpretation of the different words and their meaning, it was very interesting to find out about how each of the participants revealed their subjective thoughts on the different words the cards offered. I found this workshop very touching because of the personal-sharing character required from the audience as well as the organiser. And I think this was a reminder of how important mentoring is for everyone on a personal level. It was a clear message on how mentoring enhances people’s lives!