Our Hero of the month for January is Noel Stephenson who mentored on Mosaic’s Secondary mentoring programme at Carlton Bolling School and on the Enterprise Challenge programme at St Bede’s Catholic Grammar School in Yorkshire.
Noel is a director of The Whole Caboodle advertising agency and head coach at a local rugby club.
Noel is an exceptional mentor and very deserving of this award. He has fantastic interpersonal skills which made him an instant hit with young people and has very quickly built a rapport with his mentees. He was very supportive of his team of mentors and ensured sessions were planned in advance. Thank you very much Noel.
How long have you been volunteering as a Mosaic mentor for?
What motivated you to want to become a mentor?
My wife who is a senior lecturer at Leeds Carnegie University was a key motivator in getting me involved in Mosaic. She has had lots of involvement in re-training asylum seekers from war torn countries. Many of the people she helps although highly qualified had qualifications that were not recognised in this country. The stories they told her on their journeys to sanctuary were humbling and harrowing in the same instance.
I felt that my background, coming from a broken home, single parent, mixed race family with little money was one that was common in many of our deprived communities but children who were given the right support and encouragement from people who have succeeded in the face of adversity was something I could certainly help with. Sometimes individuals through no fault of their own do not have the simple support they need to help them start believing in themselves. This lack of support can often leave them feeling isolated, unworthy and disengaged from society.
I felt that I could help support some of these individuals and that is my motivation.
Please tell us about a particular rewarding or special experience you have had as a mentor?
The biggest rewarding experience to date as a mentor was seeing the faces of my team on winning the Enterprise Challenge competition in London. I started mentoring thinking that the reward for me would be what I contributed and gave in terms of time and experience. What I didn’t realise is how much I would get out of the whole experience and that has been reward in itself.
What have you learned from your time as a mentor?
Apart from appreciating much more about not taking for granted the support and encouragement one often gets from having a loving family and friends. The biggest thing I have learnt is often how little is required to make somebody feel better about themselves and to be proud of who they are. Sometimes just being there to listen is enough. I have spoken to a number of business contacts based on my experience who could also be mentoring candidates and have the desire to become mentors, without exception all of them think that it’s what they can offer in terms of expertise and experience that is important to become a worthwhile mentor. Although this is important, I do tell them that often it’s the ability just to listen without judging is what a mentee really may need and make a difference for them as an individual.
What have you found challenging about mentoring?
The biggest challenge I have found is not taking for granted the cosy and secure life I live when meeting young individuals whose basic needs are often not met, while convincing them that if they can approach their own life with the right attitude they can make a positive impact on their future.
And what do you do when you’re not volunteering?
I am a director of The Whole Caboodle advertising agency who have been incredibly supportive. I am married with two children who take most of my time up at the weekends.
I have been head coach at my local rugby club where I used to play and my son played for the past 6 years taking an under 7’s team right through to under 14’s. However, this was my last season and will be stepping down as my son is playing for school on Saturdays now wants to play golf on Sunday’s.
Would you recommend being a Mosaic mentor to others?
I am already speaking to a few business colleagues and some friends about becoming Mosaic mentors.
What makes a good mentor?
The ability to listen without judgement, communicate in an empathetic and engaging manner, making your involvement fun but focused and making sure you leave any inflated ego’s at home.
How do you feel about receiving the Hero of the Month Award?
I am both flattered and delighted at the same time. To be nominated is special enough but to win is quiet overwhelming especially as I know how much work and effort all the other mentors put in.
If there was only one piece of advice you could give to a young person to achieve success, what would that be?
My advice would be “believe in yourself and you will find that good things start to suddenly happen for you”, which I know is more of a statement but that’s what I say to my mentees.
Any other personal reflections?
The ongoing experience’s I am collecting while being a mentor for Mosaic is constantly making me re-evaluate myself, my life and the often simple things I take for granted. I did not realise that by giving even a small amount of time to help the confidence of another individual can in some ways be far more rewarding to the person giving than the person that receives it.