Alison O’Connell, Mentor Coordinator at St Teilo’s C.I.W High School: Match-making for student success

Alison has been working with 1MM since our launch in January 2019, and has already brought on a second cohort of mentees to be mentored. Alison is committed to understanding the specific needs of each mentee, to ensure they are matched with their ideal mentor and get the most out of the mentoring relationship.

Please can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I am a married mother of 2 adult children. I joined St Teilo’s 2 years ago as a temp & was asked to stay on.  I have lived in America, The Netherlands & Australia & have over 18 years’ experience in education.  I came to live in Wales for the weather.

Why did you want you want/your company want to get involved with 1MM?

I inherited 1MM from our previous Head – Googling as much info as possible about them, I have whole heartedly embraced what they have to offer. Some of our students are from disadvantaged backgrounds and I want our students to realise there is so much available to them, that they can set goals and achieve them too, and that help and advice from other sectors outside school is there for them.

A healthy mentoring relationship can be beneficial to achieving both academic and personal goals. There have been studies that point to increases in confidence and performance as well as decreases in risky behaviour in students who are mentored. Mentoring means teaching, guiding, counselling, sponsoring, influencing and more. A mentor may expose teens to ideas and opportunities that parents may not be familiar with. Part of the normal developmental process of adolescence is for children to distinguish themselves from their parents. Students who have mentors are much more likely to stay in school, improve their grades, academic performance and increase their attendance rates.

Have you enjoyed your work with 1MM?

Working with 1MM has been a great experience. I have enjoyed working with my Regional Manager, Richard Jones, and meeting new people through the mentoring scheme. We had great fun organising & hosting ‘The Great Get Together’, a celebration event which marked the third anniversary of the murder of Jo Cox MP with around 50 guests including Cllr Huw Thomas – Leader of Cardiff City Council, Cllr Sarah Merry – Deputy Leader of the Council, and Cabinet Member for Education & Hannah Jenkins – Cardiff Council Education Department.

 Has the wider organisation been involved with the 1MM programme? If so, in what way?

I initially started with a small group of Year 9 & Year 10 students, just to test the water. I am excited to say that I am working alongside the Head of Year 12 to incorporate the senior students into the programme.

 Have there been any positive outcomes for your young people as a result of your involvement with 1MM?

I am seeing a definite improvement in the behaviour and attitude of some of the younger mentees.  I meet with the mentors before a mentoring session and will fill them in on any matters that may have arisen since the last time they met. The mentor is then able to discuss this during their session. Each mentor is different and will mentor in their own way, if you take the time to get to know your student and then pair them with the right mentor, you have a match made in heaven and you will see your student bloom.

What would you say to someone who is considering partnering with 1MM?

All mentors complete a One Million Mentors training programme – they are very thorough. Once completed, you are able to match your student with a mentor. For us, it has been very successful and the students have enjoyed their mentoring sessions. Rich has been a great facilitator and made the whole process easy and fun, I would definitely recommend working with 1MM.