Reach for the Stars

Four Marlborough Girls College students smiling at school

Saturday Express

Marlborough Girls College is teaming up with the Graeme Dingle Foundation next year for a mentoring programme, Stars, to help year 9 students transition to college. Sophie Trigger has the full story on page 3

Mentoring ‘fence at the top of cliff’

A new mentoring program will complete a trifecta of support for Marlborough’s young people in tackling life’s trickiest transitions.

Marlborough Girls College is partnering with the Graeme Dingle Foundation next year, supporting new Year 9 students through the programme ‘Stars’.

Like the Kiwi Can and Career Navigator programmes, Stars sees young students supported throughout a transition.

While Kiwi Can focuses on development in primary school, and Career Navigator on entering the workforce, the Stars programme tackles the transition into high school.

Graeme Dingle regional manager Kelvin Watt said the organisation had been running the programmes for decades, but the need for a wellbeing focus in schools had recently become “topical”.

“They [the programmes] are the fence at the top of the cliff,” Watt said.

“Each one of them is all about teaching young people the skills and strategies to deal with challenges or situations in their lives, and building up the support network.

“It’s well documented that these are important stages in young people’s lives in which additional support could be required.”

While a pilot for Marlborough, Watt said Stars had been offered in other regions and focused on building connections between new and senior students.

Each new year 9 student would be partnered with a year 12 or 13 student, a relationship kick-started with an adventure camp at the beginning of the year.

“People might have a parent or teacher, but we know that having one other significant person or perspective can be really valuable,” Watt said.

Marlborough Girls College principal Mary-Jeanne Lynch said the program would be one way to address mental health needs in the community.

“We probably all know the statistics around youth mental health and increasing amounts of anxiety in young people,” Lynch said.

“This is one of the great things about partnering with the Graeme Dingle Foundation.

“We can’t do this on our own, we need support from other organisations within our community to address the needs of our kids in terms of their wellbeing.”

As the year 9 students came from 20 primary schools, Lynch said it was important to provide them with a sense of community and belonging.

“We really need to build strong connections and develop a strong tuakana-teina of older students – big sister, little sister.”

Stars would involve 250 year 9 students and 50 senior mentors who would meet weekly under the guidance of a teacher and a Stars coordinator. The foundation is currently advertising for this role.

The Graeme Dingle Foundation is 99 per cent funded by the Marlborough community, Watt said, making student wellbeing a community focus.

The foundation was open to hearing from other community organisations that wished to support the program.

“This is the Graeme Dingle Foundation, which is supported by the wider community, and the school partnering together,” Lynch said.

“It’s a really powerful thing.”

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