I found out about the Macquarie Refugee Mentoring Program (LEAP) through my friend’s recommendations and the advertisements around campus. Each year, I remember telling myself that I was too busy and will surely do it next year. So as I realised I was in my last year at Macquarie University, I decided to take up all the opportunities available to me -one of which was applying to the LEAP Program. I have been mentored by senior managers in my previous workplace and through the LUCY mentoring program (another great program targeted towards women studying degrees in the Faculty of Business and Economics) and realised how beneficial it is to be guided by someone more senior to you who may have taken the career or university path that you’re planning on taking.
The LEAP mentoring program in particular is great because you get to travel on a Macquarie University bus with other like-minded mentors each week. I have certainly developed some great friendships during these bus rides. In the first few weeks, all mentees sit in a circle with the mentors and each mentee is given the opportunity to speak about his other aspirations. Based on this and our background and interests we recommend the students that would best benefit from our support to the LEAP Project Coordinator. I was paired up with a bubbly and extremely intelligent girl from Sierra Leone who wants to pursue medicine. What is even more incredible is her reason behind this decision. I asked ‘so why do you want to be a doctor?’ She replied ‘I want to build my own health clinic to provide the people of Sierra Leone with help when they need it and also to decrease the number of babies dying soon after they have been brought into this world.’ Hearing this was probably the highlight of my experience so far. People from refugee backgrounds have often come from very difficult circumstances but that does not stop them from having big dreams.
A great aspect about the LEAP mentoring program is that it encourages an individual approach to building student skill sets and helps them to navigate new schools, new culture, the Australian curriculum and the multiple education and employment pathways on offer to them. In terms of benefits for me, I believe I have been able to really help my mentee achieve her dreams. In our one-hour lessons at Blacktown Girls High School, we looked at possible degrees that she could undertake to meet her ultimate career goals, university degrees, alternative pathways for entry and how I could help empower my mentee to make informed decisions about her future.
It is an experience that I highly recommend. And of course – the added bonus is that you get 20 GLP points which has definitely brought me closer to the 200 points I need to get in order to complete the Global Leadership Program.