Internships that count: Students discover the rewards of being MATES Jr mentors

29 November 2016

EDUC 200 students with members of Great Potentials Foundation, Dean Graeme Aitken and Dr Pat Bullen.
EDUC 200 students with members of Great Potentials Foundation, Dean Graeme Aitken and Dr Pat Bullen.

Each year, students across the University have a unique opportunity to spend a portion of their year mentoring a year 8 student at a low-decile school in Auckland.

EDUC 200 is a unique service learning course offered to students in partnership with Great Potentials Foundation, a charitable trust that helps children and young people to reach their full potential through life-changing programmes. The Youth Mentoring course was developed and is being coordinated by Dr Pat Bullen, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty‘s School of Learning, Development and Professional Practice.

EDUC 200 students help to deliver the Mentoring and Tutoring Education Scheme - MATES Jr run by Great Potentials Foundation. MATES Jr matches them with Year 8 students at a low-decile school in Auckland. As part of the course requirements, students complete a mentoring internship visiting their Year 8 mentees for two hours each week and support mentees to develop their academic and social skills in preparation for their transition to secondary school.

Students in the course learn about youth mentoring, but more importantly, they learn what it’s like to go above and beyond what one would expect from a normal university course. They get an opportunity to make a difference in another young person’s life, and their own.

Last week saw the end of their course and the students were thanked at ceremony to acknowledge their services to the community. At the ceremony all the students from EDUC 200 received a Great Potentials Mentoring Award from Marion Heppner (Business Development Manager of Great Potentials Foundation) and the Dean of the Faculty of Education and Social Work, Professor Graeme Aitken.

Speaking to the EDUC 200 students, Marion thanked them for their commitment to their role of mentors. “I acknowledge the massive commitment you made. The MATES Jr programme offers Year 8 students the opportunity of a safe, meaningful resilience building relationship. The work you’ve done with your young people is catalytic and it will change the trajectory of their lives. You’ve worked with them to improve their self-confidence, improve their self-worth and enabled them to build a more optimistic vision of their own futures.”

Olivia Crisp, an EDUC 200 student, thanked Great Potentials Foundation for the opportunity and acknowledged the mutual benefits of a mentor-mentee relationship.

“I think the unanimous takeaway from this experience has consistently been how lucky we have been to work with these young people - they rattled us and they challenged us. When we started we were really bright eyed and just wanted to empower change, but these kids are feisty, they’re funny and they’re perceptive. No matter how much you prepare for your session you’ve got to be adaptable to what they bring you. We learnt just as much from them, as they did from us.

“Mentoring is about showing up every week, even if you’re not sure if your mentee will show up. And it’s about leaving your day at the door and committing 100 percent. We’ve consistently said, that when you come into the session you may have just come from an exam, or come from a really intense study session, but it goes away, you just forget. It’s about you and your mentee and your relationship with them – and that’s really gratifying to be able to leave that at the door.

“After our closing sessions this week, I think it’s very clear about the benefit of the MATES system. It’s been really inspiring and really grounding.”

In his closing speech, Dean Graeme Aitken commended the students for their commitment to the programme. “I can’t think of anything more important in life than what you’ve done. My only hope is that more students like you will enter into the programme next year.”


Enrolment is now open for 2017. To enrol in EDUC 200 or apply for one of our programmes, click here.

This full-year course is open to BA, BCom and BSc students as part of the “Up to 30 points may be taken from other programmes offered by this University" in your degree structure, or as a COP (Certificate of Proficiency). To enrol in this course students must first receive approval from the academic director, Dr Pat Bullen. Email: for more information and an application form.