what we do

The program matches carefully selected and trained community volunteers with at risk junior school students studying at Warrnambool College, Brauer College, Emmanuel College and Warrnambool Special Developmental School. The volunteers have a one-on-one hour-long session every week, which can involve talking, playing cards, cooking, undertaking activities – or whatever the mentee chooses –as well as regular group sessions that focus on issues pertinent to the students involved. 

Students enter the program for two years and sessions are conducted informally at the student’s school and operate at the same time every week. While mentors are only expected to participate for the one hour session per week, we find many develop ongoing supportive relationships that extend beyond the school gate and provide the mentees with a supportive adult relationship. These relationships have the potential to change lives and have provided dozens of young people with a new, positive path they may otherwise not have found.


mentee and mentor profile


During this first session we discovered we were both Collingwood supporters and suddenly all the barriers fell down and away we went. We really hit it off and one of the questions I asked Levi was what was his favourite colour. He told me it was black and I told him my favourite was blue. I will mention this again later. 

I soon worked out that Levi was a very quiet and shy lad who came from a broken home. A major plus however, was he lives with his Mum, but spends every second weekend with his Dad and his partner. I told him that was great. I then asked him what was the one thing your mum wished you would do but you don’t. He said “Tidy up my room”.

During that first session we established ground rules which were: - You can talk to me about anything from school problems to girlfriends, however if at any time drugs are mentioned, under my duty of care responsibility, I will update the College immediately. 

He understood the rules and then we got into knowing each other, and then the fun began. I asked him at each session if he had cleaned up his room — his answer was always “NUP” 

Finally after 2 months 7 meetings he answered “Yes”. I let out such a cheer everyone in the Standing Tall area heard me and this followed a high ‘5’ with him. He was suddenly very happy with his achievement and we still have fun reliving that milestone moment. 

During one sessions he was looking at researching a trade as his future career. Having a relation in the building trade this was a good option to look at. We then decided to test our building skills (of which I had none) to build a letter box to be given to some one of his choice. So away we went into the construction industry!!! 

If anyone is considering the challenge of being a mentor, have a go at the Standing Tall program is a fabulous well run program and it’s very helpful to the student
— Eric Gilbert, Mentor

We drew up plans for the letter box to look like a house and went to the woodwork room at the College to find off cuts of timber we could use. We started a project which took us 6 months to finish as we only worked on the construction for 20 minutes each month. 

Finally completed, we decided to paint the letter box which was quite big. I asked him what colour to start with and he said Black and I said OK I’ll go for a blue roof. The paint job was completed and he decided to give the letter box to his Mum. So, there is our pride and joy, the biggest letter box in the street, painted and looking good.

I went back to read our first question and answer activity when we first met, “Getting to Know each other session”, and there was the question: - what were our favourite Colours – Back & Blue the same colours of our letter box?!! and that was 12 months earlier. 

Finally, in summary- 

We have both enjoyed each other’s company. My wife and I have met and had dinner with his mum brother and sister and I have also met his Dad three or four times.
He decided to continue into year 11 and I’m very proud of him for that. He has gained so much self-confidence during our time together and is developing leadership skills as confirmed by recently finding casual work in the retail industry. 

We have agreed to keep in contact from time to time after our mentoring finishes this year. If anyone is considering the challenge of being a mentor, have a go the Standing Tall program is a fabulous well run program and it’s very helpful to the student