In November we announced the start of a fantastic new project, that would see young women from across the Education Training Collective get the chance to work with a mentor...

Students from Redcar and Cleveland College, Stockton Riverside College and Bede Sixth Form College, were introduced to inspirational roles models from across the Tees Valley, thanks to The Girls' Network.

Here, the charity has been catching up with one of our mentor/mentee pairs for an update.

Mentor - Hazel Rockingham

“After seeing mentions of The Girls’ Network on LinkedIn and reading up about it, I really wanted to get involved as I related so much to the case studies on their website. I could see my younger self in the girls, and really connected to the mentors’ motivations as well.

"Growing up, I was very privileged to have a good support network around me, but I still didn't have the aspirations that my close group of friends had. I was always that person who was good at many things but never excelled in anything in particular. Even when I looked at the activities I enjoyed, I still couldn’t visualise what that looked like as a career.

"Fast forward from 1994, I have a degree in marketing, 26 years’ experience in various industries, 14 of which at management level. I can now see the confidence and determination to succeed came from the inspiring women I surrounded myself with: my amazing mother, my two wonderful grandmothers, my friends and some hugely inspiring women I had the privilege of working with over the years.

"Having the right people around me to ask for help allowed me to follow a path which led to where I am today. As tempting as it was at times to choose the path of least resistance, the people I mention above gave me the strength to push myself out of my comfort zone. I realised that if you take the ‘wrong’ path, that’s a learning opportunity. We learn, grow and are transformed not so much by what we do, but why and how we do it.

"When the day arrived, I was so pleased to be matched with Amber. From our initial introductory emails, it was apparent we had a lot in common. From our valuing of family life, the films we both liked, and our love for the outdoors.

"We have had three mentoring sessions so far, and I can already see that Amber has started to challenge herself and create a vision for her future. I am delighted to be working with her and I feel privileged to help her shape and realise her goals.

"Taking part in the mentoring programme has allowed me to share knowledge and at the same time has highlighted areas for my own development."

Mentee - Amber

“When I signed up for mentoring I was expecting to get some really useful and helpful ideas with what I wanted to do in my future and my career, and what steps and paths I would choose to be able to achieve my goals. It has 100% done that for me so far and I’m so pleased I was a bit brave and went for it.

"Generally I am coping well with lockdown and having someone to speak to regularly is helping me. Knowing that I’m not alone and still getting help and advice about my future is very reassuring because times are tough at the moment.

"I would recommend mentoring with The Girls’ Network to other girls my age. It may seem a strange thing to do at first but, trust me, it makes sense very quickly and then it makes so many things easier and more achievable. Go for it.”

The Girls' Network

The Girls’ Network aims to inspire and empower girls aged 14-19 from the least advantaged communities by connecting them to a mentor and a network of professional role models who are women. With projects running in in London, Sussex, Portsmouth, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, the North East, Tees Valley and Merseyside, the mentors are all professional women, who are extensively trained and vetted by The Girls’ Network.

Launched in the Tees Valley in July 2020, despite challenges posed by the global pandemic, they have matched over 100 girls in the region with a local professional woman and trained a total of over 150 volunteers to mentor.

With funding locally from the Tees Valley Combined Authority, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “It’s fantastic to hear about the difference The Girls’ Network is making in the lives of young people across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool in just a few short months – and in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m a huge believer in engaging the next generation to show them all of the opportunities and possibilities that are available to them right here in the Tees Valley. These inspiring women are playing a huge part in shaping the futures of girls right across our region, giving them the support, advice and encouragement to help them get ahead and succeed.

“Stories like those of Hazel and Amber really demonstrate how rewarding this scheme can be, not just for those who are mentored, but also the mentors too. I’d encourage each and every one of our fantastic women in business to get involved and help change lives.”

Rosalind Stuart 1 Rosalind Stuart And Redcar Students The Girls' Network Redcar And Cleveland College Amber Thorpe
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