Forrest is a retiree who previously owned his own business. He joined EdConnect Australia to give back and become a mentor. He completed the mentor training module but was placed as a learning support volunteer in the classroom, supporting the teacher and meeting the school’s needs.

Forrest attends a secondary college in the Geelong / Surf Coast Region for over six hours a week and works with years 7, 8 and 11 students in English and Humanities classes. While supporting the student’s classroom learning, Forrest sometimes draws on his mentoring training to provide emotional and social support and often arrives early and stays later to chat with students.

“I give individual attention to each student: I ask them about their goals in life and also listen to what is happening in their home life too,” he explains.

Forrest typically asks the students about their plans after leaving school, with most aspiring to be AFL footballers. While encouraging their goals, Forrest also asks: ‘But what is plan B; what is your backup plan?” With many not having any. Nevertheless, Forrest will often return to this question later and encourage the students to think of alternative careers and help them explore their career options.

In his discussions with students, he recalls hearing many sad life stories at home and appreciates that the students trust him enough to confide in him. He also commented that there does not appear to be another trusted adult or role model available for students that encourages schooling and career aspirations, which is something he can do.

Forrest supports and encourages critical thinking and application in the classroom in schoolwork and life. For example, he recalls chatting to one student and asking what their parent’s expectations were for their schooling to which their reply was simply to ‘pass.’ He challenged the student to aim higher and stated to them that further education and university were within their reach, showing belief in the student. The aspiration was new to the student but clearly affected them; when Forrest asked the student a few weeks later, “Do you think you’ll go to university?” the student replied, “Yes, I think so!”

Forrest was pleased that his positive and encouraging words affected the student and boosted their career aspirations. He feels appreciated and accepted by the students and staff at the school he is volunteering at. One day, after his classroom-based volunteering session ended, he sat as the students played basketball. The students knew Forrest had played basketball for several years and asked him to join their game. Another volunteer told Forrest that he had ‘made it’ with the students and that they respected and valued him.