MECA brings migrant student mentor program to Chifley College, Mount Druitt

Article by: Isabell Petrinic | Mt Druitt-St Marys Standard

Navigating your teenage years can be hard for any student, let alone one carrying the weight of getting to grips with a new country.

Mount Druitt Ethnic Communities Agency (MECA) wants to help.

It has enlisted mentors to work with 10 students at Chifley College, Mount Druitt, who recently arrived in Australia.

Some are trying to overcome traumatic pasts, but their mentors are hoping to help them seize the opportunities their new home offers.

Starting this term, mentors will meet with mentees in the school’s library every Friday, MECA community development officer Daniel Gorbena said.

The pilot program will include one-on-one and group work to give students an new emotional and social outlet.

“Most of the mentees we have this year are new arrivals so they need help with that transition into a new country,” Mr Gorbena said.

“The mentee sets the agenda of what they talk about [with mentors]. They can talk about what was discussed in the group. Or it could be a burning issue that they have, like a domestic violence incident.

“Afterwards we have something to eat and then the students go back to class. The mentors will debrief and might say, ‘This student has this issue, we should keep an eye on that’.”

Most mentees are living with family, but some have a parent still living overseas.

Mentors are a mix of psychology students and graduates who are being trained to deal with issues including depression, anxiety and emotional trauma.

“This part of the program is pretty professional and we want to keep it in school,” program coordinator Marija Yelavich.

“But depending on how the relationships grow, we’re hoping it grows outside of school.

“Things like being Facebook friends or meeting for lunch. But we’ll base it on individual needs to see what happens after that.”

Mr Gorbena said MECA hoped more mentors would come on board to expand its reach.

“We are eager to do more but we want to get this one right,” he said.

“We have had discussions with other schools, but with the small group we have now we want to make sure this program works before we duplicate it.”

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