The GROW Programme: A Graduate Mentor View by Abigail Wensley

As a Psychology graduate from Sheffield Hallam University I always knew I wished to work with children in a supportive role. That is why when I was beginning to search for jobs after my last and final deadline this one caught my eye. Working as a graduate mentor with ten year tens, coaching them through the changes of leaving lockdown and returning to school. A chance to work with children in a supportive role just like I wished. After an intensive week of training I have not only left with new skills and knowledge but new experiences with children to help me with my future. The GROW program is a program that benefits everyone involved. Some benefits I did not expect:


Graduating into a Covid-19 job market was daunting and just short of terrifying. Smaller job market, more applicants and a seemingly hopeless tirade from the media of all future prospects for our country, let alone little old me, gone. A small project provided a glimmer of hope.

I soon came to realise the magnitude and speed at which this project was being rolled out at. Having no structure during lockdown and my time at university I felt I had been hit square on with a tonne of bricks. I was mentally exhausted from day one and it was a fraction at which the team leading us through this unknown wilderness felt I am sure. The training was intense and varied. However, no amount of training I am sure would make us feel prepared to leave our trench of security and head out into no man’s land carrying our soon to be teen charges on our backs. In an unknown overwhelming post Covid world where I myself felt lost, how was I going to inspire and encourage those dubbed “the lost generation”?


Armed as I was with my new found knowledge and barrage of activities I sat there. Behind my computer, notepad at the ready. Nerves, excitement and dread swirling around my already strained mind. The sudden realisation they may not show up hit. But show up they did.

Children hit down and pushed back by a world out of their control. Struggling to keep up, stay motivated and worst of all stay hopeful. I wasn’t alone in realising that a post Covid world looked bleak. But day after day they showed up, their resilience remarkable and inner drive to do something, anything to help themselves amazed. They worked with me to begin inch by inch crossing no man’s land to the potentially bleak future they faced but a future that was bearing down on them none the less. Slowly but surely as we inched across and progressed through this program their ability to still have goals, hopes and dreams made that future look just a little less terrifying.


Each individual child progressed miles during this program. Each facing a unique challenge to their future. These children have had it hard. There’s no denying the impact of Covid has had on them is unknown and the extent probably won’t be felt or anticipated to its fullest for a while. However, I believe between us I inspired them while they inspired me. A two-way door I was not expecting. I myself along with hundreds of thousands of other graduates are about to start traipsing the long hard path to our future. This, while not the same path, runs parallel to that of the students returning to their education in September. The largest change I have seen appear on that path, hope. Hope for themselves, hope for their goals, hope for their future. We each must now navigate ourselves through this new and daunting world, and each inch we make across no man’s land, each painful terrifying step, is fuelled by one thing. Hope. A lesson I didn’t teach the children, a lesson they taught me.