An exploration of the value youth mentors attach to their role in Gaisce – The President’s Award Irish national self-development programme

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Mangan, Philip J.
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Community-Academic Research Links, University College Cork
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Using Gaisce, The President’s Award, Ireland’s national youth achievement award programme, this study explores the role of the youth mentor within a non-formal learning environment. Drawing on quantitative survey data and semi-structured qualitative interviews, the study examined the value which school-based President’s Award Leaders (PALs) perceive is attached to the role they play in mentoring young people through the Gaisce programme. In relation to their perceived value, 90% of the teacher PALs surveyed reported that they believed that they ‘made a difference’ to the lives of their Award students. It also emerged that a core source of affirmation for PALs is the response of students who complete the programme and that of their parents. Secondary value or affirmation comes from school management and, to a lesser extent, from Gaisce. The high attrition rate in the programme was identified as a significant theme - with 40% of participants failing to attain the Award. It was apparent that such a high drop-out rate impacted significantly on the morale of PALs. Although there was unanimous agreement amongst participants that they have no desire to receive monetary or other rewards for the work they do for Gaisce, the importance they place on feeling valued was highlighted by the general consensus that they appreciate receiving recognition for the work they do. Gaisce PALs reported that they spent less than 180 minutes per week engaging in mentor/mentee relationships and had an average of 33 mentees each. Subsequently, many participants reported that delivering on their role as a Gaisce PAL, in tandem with their duties as a teacher, proved challenging in the context of time poverty. It was notable that PALs working in DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) schools believed that students and the parents of students in their schools, who achieved the Award, place a high value on the work they do and on the Gaisce programme - since they are less likely to have had the opportunity to attain as many awards as students in more advantaged schools.
Gaisce , The President’s Award , National youth achievement award , DEIS , PALs
Mangan, P. J. (2020) An exploration of the value youth mentors attach to their role in Gaisce – The President’s Award Irish national self-development programme. Cork: Community-Academic Research Links, University College Cork.
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