Q&A with award-winning student mentor, Kayley

We recently spoke to Kayley Zielinski-Nicolson, an undergraduate psychology student who mentored with Raise. Kayley talks about the impact she had on her mentee and also the impact mentoring had on her personally....

How I came to mentor with Raise  

Since I am currently an undergraduate psychology student, I first heard about youth mentoring with Raise through the Work Integrated Learning activity at Macquarie University called Professional and Community Engagement (PACE). I was really impressed with the opportunities Raise provides students to gain invaluable experiences in an area relevant to their study, while contributing to youth mental health within our community. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to complete my placement in such a professional, supportive, and encouraging environment with Raise. I’ve found my whole experience with Raise really inspiring and encouraging of my future academic and professional endeavours in the field of psychology.  

My mentoring experience  

I was really impressed with the extensive training offered by Raise. I found the training to be well paced, informative, and practically useful. Mentoring with Raise provides university students a unique opportunity to develop and engage a range of interpersonal, communication, and psychoeducation skills. I found that the initial training really motivated me at the beginning of my Raise journey since I felt well-equipped to mentor for the first time.  

For me, Raise provided me with genuine practical experience and insights into youth mental health that you just can’t get from a textbook. I think the Raise handbook was a useful guide for each mentoring session and really related to the experiences of mentees engaged with the program. Raise also provides a great practical introduction into confidentiality, supervision, and youth safety escalation processes that are critically important within the professional fields of psychology, social work, and counselling.  

Throughout the Raise program I found the weekly mentor support sessions to be incredibly helpful in developing my skills and confidence as a mentor. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other mentors and our program counsellor Kristy. Raise establishes a welcoming environment for mentees and mentors alike where each person is respected, valued, and supported throughout their entire mentoring journey.  

What I learned about young people and the world from their perspective

Young people within our community are so resilient and capable. There is so much to navigate as a young person, especially in facing challenges of current events. I’m so inspired by the courageousness of young people today - in showing up for themselves and others, their honesty and bravery in delving into meaningful and important topics, and their commitment to establishing themselves as empowered and empathetic individuals in our community. I feel incredibly honoured to have been a part the early journeys of the mentees I engaged with in the Raise program. I’m sure they will go on to achieve wonderful things throughout their lives, and I think the experiences and insights gained through Raise mentoring will always be important to them.  

Mentoring highlights

I look back on my entire Raise journey and feel that I really enjoyed each and every mentoring session. Of course, the greatest highlight of my Raise experience was engaging with my mentee throughout the program. It’s awesome to learn who your mentee is and how they engage with a range of experiences in their lives. Mentoring with Raise is such a fast-paced program because so much goes on each week in the life of a mentee. Mentoring can be a really fun experience. While you support your mentee with various challenges, you also get to celebrate their successes, encourage them to pursue their passions, and share a laugh. I always really looked forward to our mentoring sessions because Raise is such a positive environment for mentees to connect, reflect, and become motivated for the week ahead.  

The difference I noticed in the young person I mentored

I really feel that my mentee got so much out of the Raise program. It’s amazing to look back on the mentoring journey from Jitters to Graduation and be able to see my mentee become so confident in themselves and their abilities to take on and seek out challenges. I feel so inspired by the bright future ahead of such a strong, independent, brave, and brilliant young person. It’s a wonderful feeling to have contributed to the growth and change in a young person in some way by providing them a space to learn about themselves and their experiences, develop goals for their future, and to put those plans into action. I’m so proud of my mentee and I’m really excited for their future personal, academic, and professional adventures.  

What I got out of mentoring

I have gained so much from mentoring with Raise. Mentoring has significantly expanded my interpersonal and professional skill set. Working as a youth mentor has significantly contributed to my preparedness and planning for future study and employment in the mental health field. Working with the Raise Foundation has emphasised to me the importance of providing accessible, informed, and compassionate support to young people within our community and I aim to continue to contribute to this goal throughout my professional career.  

Since mentoring with Raise I have gained employment across several roles because employers appreciate the value of skills developed and experiences gained through mentoring with Raise. I gained important insights and I advocate for the importance of youth mental health and wellbeing. I became part of a fantastic team of mentors with a diverse range of experiences and insights to learn from both professionally and personally. Mentoring has been incredibly inspiring and encouraging as I was able to genuinely make positive contributions to young people within our local community.  

How mentoring with Raise helped me as a placement student

I recently received a Highly Commended Student Prize for the Judyth Sachs PACE Prize 2021 for the Faculty of Medicine, Health & Human Sciences at Macquarie University for my placement with Raise last year. This award recognises outstanding contribution during a work integrated learning activity. Additionally, this award reflects how my placement with Raise developed my employability skills and personal development by making a valuable contribution to the Raise community.  

I am really honoured to receive such a highly competitive award. I feel this award represents the amazing opportunities Raise provides mentors to learn, grow, and achieve alongside their mentees. This also reflects how Raise supports and encourages mentors to be confident in the skills they develop throughout the program and reflect upon the genuine contributions made to our community. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities Raise has provided me. I am inspired to continue to support our community in the future by applying the skills and experiences I have gained as a youth mentor.  

I would strongly encourage other university students to undertake a placement with Raise.  

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