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PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2021

Personalisation powers mentoring

People often ask why our programme leads to such impressive outcomes. First Foundation Chair, Rich Easton, says it’s due to the combination of the programme’s three pillars; financial support, work experience and mentoring. He says the mentoring relationships are especially powerful because First Foundation’s mentors build strong, personal connections that are unique for every student.

First Foundation Board Chair Rich Easton

Rich has mentored five scholars over the years, and he has relished getting to know every one of them.

“The support for each scholar has been quite different, based on their background, their area of study, and how life has unfolded for them over their time with the First Foundation. The support is highly personalised rather than following a standardised structure.”

 

Mentoring focuses on the individual

Rich says he’s focused on ensuring his support responds to their needs and situations. “My style is as a supportive adult, letting the scholar lead the areas to discuss, with appropriate ‘prompters’ rather than taking a ‘checklist’ approach. In particular, I find myself drawing on my own journey. I remember starting work as an apprentice at 16, having people telling me what to do all the time and finding that a bit too confronting.”

It’s clear that Rich’s support has been a pivotal influence. The first scholar he took on for work experience at Spark ten years ago, Tuputau Lelaulu; Tau, has since become a trustee on First Foundation’s board!

In mentoring, Rich has been keenly aware of the value of ‘being there’ when scholars have faced difficult decisions. 

“It’s challenging, partway through a degree, to realise you may not have the same end goal you’d started with. So, there are lots of conversations on managing change, the reasons why and the implications of them.

“Without a mentor, a student would have to work through this by themselves or with a family member. Often, our scholars are the first person in their families to go to university, which means there is little experience about what these types of decisions could mean for the future.

“At the heart of the value that First Foundation provides is the mentor, who has life experience yet isn’t a family member. It puts them in a special position to guide the scholar in their thinking.

“In addition, as mentors, we can connect scholars with people in our networks who might be able to help understand career path options and what kind of roles exist in various sectors.”

 

Shared experience enriches the programme

The team at First Foundation have worked closely with hundreds of scholars over the years, so some great learning is available from what others have been through. Among them, the wealth of experience is incredible. And it continues to build.

Rich says he feels enriched by the relationships he’s built as a mentor.

“I’ve learnt as much from Joel, Tau, Robert, Tama and Lachlan as I’ve been able to give. Mentoring offers you a whole new perspective on the world and can grow into long term friendships, connections into different communities and self-learning.

Rich Easton with Lachlan Patelesio

Rich Easton with his current mentee Lachlan Patelesio

“It’s such a wonderful experience, which I so love. The connection to youth development is so vital to New Zealand. It’s great to have conversations that broaden your thinking, and working with the scholars has helped me understand more about the challenges for younger people.

“I was delighted when I was invited to become a First Foundation trustee four years ago, and now have the honour of being Chair. I’ve enjoyed being able to offer hands-on support as a mentor. And the more I get to know the organisation, the more impressed I am about its value.

Each mentor is part of the First Foundation story

“During my time at Spark, I worked closely with Group HR on the scholarship selection and engagement process for our First Foundation scholars. I also supported First Foundation for a number of years when we used to do big ‘interview scholarship applicant days”.

Now, Rich encourages others to get involved and to find out for themselves why he’s so dedicated.

“The First Foundation is helping to grow the future leaders of Aotearoa by providing work experience, mentoring and financial support.

“When our scholars graduate from university, they bring significant benefits into their communities, helping lift the situations for those most in need.

“If you have a passion for helping young people to grow into the future leaders of Aotearoa, please do become a First Foundation Mentor or supporter. Your life experiences, compassion, empathy and contribution can be an invaluable part of the three pillars of the First Foundation programme.”

“If you have a passion for helping young people to grow into the future leaders of Aotearoa, please do become a First Foundation Mentor or supporter. Your life experiences, compassion, empathy and contribution can be an invaluable part of the three pillars of the First Foundation programme.”