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Leonardo helps students to mentor their peers

Leonardo helps students to mentor their peers

4 March 2009

Students from Gorseinon College in Wales are learning how to be effective mentors to their peers as part of a Leonardo Transfer of Innovation project.

When people act as mentors to contemporaries there are many advantages. If we believe that someone is similar to us and faces the same concerns, then we can be more likely to listen to them and change our attitudes and behaviours as a result.

Student peer mentoring draws on the credibility that young people have with their peers and leverages the power of role modelling.

The aim of the Transfer of Innovation project is to develop an accredited 'Peer Education' training programme across Europe. A project team from Gorseinon College in Wales is working in partnership with organisations from Italy, Belgium, Romania, Portugal and Turkey to achieve this goal.

The first in a series of training courses for the young peer mentors took place in Antalya, Turkey at the end of 2008. It was attended by twenty-two peer mentors from Wales, Turkey, Romania, Portugal and Belgium. Further training events will take place across Europe as the project progresses.

We heard from Chelsey, a student at Gorseinon College in Wales, who attended the training. She told us: "everyone learnt new mentoring skills to apply when they returned home. During the week we learnt about the different circumstances under which we all mentor. This allowed us to share our knowledge and ideas during practical tasks. We took part in group building exercises to understand how important body language is, and practised the new skills we learnt on each other – such as ‘open questions’."

The training also provided an opportunity for participants to share their culture, make friends and develop new language skills. Chelsey said: "although there were language barriers, everybody was very patient with each other. It was very helpful that some peer educators were bilingual and could translate, but by the end of the week everybody was using phrases in all different languages!"

PIP peer educator course, Turkey, November 2008
Students on the first 'Peer Education' training course in Turkey

PIP peer educators with certificates in Turkey, Nov 2008
The students with course certificates to mark their achievements

And finally, she told us: "I greatly appreciated the opportunity – a huge thank you goes to all of the people who organised the trip for us and took part in teaching us our new skills. It truly gave us a life experience and we remain in contact with each other almost every day, learning each other’s languages and thus breaking down the language barrier. The trip helped us all to find confidence that we could help even more mentees when we returned home."

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