BBC staff turn mentors to boost young potential

Local students benefit from experienced programme-makers and journalists

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BBC staff - including programme-makers, journalists and technologists - are acting as mentors to local young people in a scheme run jointly with Hammersmith & Fulham Council's education business partnership.

The programme links 32 BBC mentors with young people at the William Morris Academy sixth form, Hammersmith & West London College, Phoenix High School, the Bridge Academy pupil referral unit and White City Youth Project. Some of these young people in turn act as peer tutors and mentors for pupils in local primary and secondary schools.

The mentors arrange to meet the young people regularly at the BBC to discuss their progress in their sixth-form, college or school and any other issues, including personal interests and career goals, that they wish to talk about.

Jim Frank, a radio producer for BBC current affairs, has been mentoring Jerome Jones, 19, a business studies student at Hammersmith & West London College, since September. Jim said: "I think it is a very good idea for young people to have older friends that they can go to for advice who are not parents, carers or teachers."

As well as talking about Jerome's college work and future goals, Jim has helped Jerome rewrite his CV as well as showing him around the current affairs studio. "It only works if you get on well as people," said Jim. "I have learned a lot from Jerome too. It has been a two-way process and very informal."

Jerome, who wants to go on to university to study business, said: "I have seen how the BBC runs and met a lot of Jim's workmates. The whole experience has been enjoyable and I feel I can open up to Jim without being judged."

Saqib Qazi, 18, also a business studies student at H&WLC, is being mentored by BBC technologist Tim Harness. Saqib said the experience had improved his confidence and he had learned a lot about how the BBC works, including seeing American singer-songwriter Paul Simon rehearsing for Later with Jools Holland.

The mentoring scheme, which has been running for more than two years, was celebrated at an awards evening at the BBC's headquarters in White City last week.Participants received certificates of appreciation from Yogesh Chauhan, the BBC's deputy head of corporate social responsibility, and Ian Heggs, head of Hammersmith & Fulham Council's education business partnership.

Also receiving certificates were BBC staff who act as volunteer readers in local primary schools and managers from the Starbucks Coffee Company, in west London, who act as mentors to students at Phoenix High School. Both schemes are also run in partnership with the council's education business partnership.

Alexandra Thurston, a management accountant for BBC TV, acts as a volunteer reader to pupils at Canberra Primary School, in White City. She said she enjoyed seeing the progress children make with the help of the Reading Partners scheme and the support of the school. "The boy I have been reading with recently is less shy now and reads with more expression and confidence. He seems to enjoy his time reading, which is very important. It is really encouraging when they read a book without much help or move up a level."

Cllr Alexandra Robson, the council's cabinet member for education, said: "Young people benefit enormously from their regular interaction with BBC staff, who are highly skilled and busy people giving their time generously. The council works hard to encourage local employers, including the BBC, Starbucks and Coca-Cola, to support a wide range of community projects including mentoring, volunteering, arts and sports activities which benefit people of all ages and backgrounds."

A celebration of the successful Coca-Cola Valued Youth mentoring programme - a business mentoring scheme run jointly by the council's education business partnership and Coca-Cola GB - is due to be held at Coca-Cola GB's Hammersmith headquarters on 4 July.


June 5, 2006