ECU Mates is an innovative program that trains ECU students to become ‘mates’ and mentor lower secondary school students from partnership schools in low socio-economic areas
ECU Mates is an innovative program that trains Edith Cowan University (ECU) students to become ‘mates’ and mentor lower secondary school students from partnership schools in low socio-economic areas. The program provides guidance, friendship and educational support to these students who are currently unlikely to undertake higher education.
In the first year of the program, 50 highly motivated and trained ECU Mates mentored 150 secondary school students from across six schools. Approximately 400 small group sessions were conducted by ECU Mates with students covering:
- advice on school subjects
- homework and study
- handling peer pressure
- practising mock interviews for part-time work
- conducting ‘safe’ science experiments • learning more about university life.
At the end of the year, all students attend the ECU Mates Day where they tour the university campus, attend ‘fun’ lectures and discover more about university courses that interest them
The main objectives of ECU Mates are:
- to provide an inclusive mentoring program targeting lower secondary students at educational risk from identified low Index of Community Socio-Educated Advantage schools and who rarely receive funding support
- to provide socio-emotional and educational support, in implementing resilience strategies to promote success at school and later into higher education
- to reinforce both the HEPPP objectives and ECU’s Engaging Minds: Engaging Communities: Towards 2020 document with the long-term goal of ‘facilitating positive contributions to our communities by our students, graduates and staff.
HEPPP funding has supported a part-time coordinator for the program and other costs including training, delivery and administration. The program has also been supported by substantial volunteering efforts from other ECU staff and the ECU students.
Co-founders, Dr Deborah Callcott and Dr Judy Esmond, believe the program has exceeded expectations. Preliminary qualitative data is reinforced by positive feedback from students, ECU Mates, school personnel and parents. A letter from a parent to a participating school best sums up the program’s value:
“I would like to express my appreciation. My son has been very fortunate in having access to this program. He has had quite a big adjustment to high school life and has had times when things seemed quite overwhelming for him. Having someone to talk to at school where there are no judgements, just friendship and compassionate communication and understanding has had such a positive influence on him. He looks forward to the days when he is going to see his ‘Mate’. I would like to thank you for enabling such a great program and I hope that this is something that is continued throughout the years.”
Evidence from participating schools has also demonstrated reductions in school absenteeism and behavioural issues. Further, there has been a 75 per cent increase in students now considering university study after attending the program.
The merit and successes of this program have resulted in requests from other schools to join the program. The goal is to undertake further intensive research and continue to expand, doubling the number of students and ECU Mates who all benefit greatly from the program.
This case study is one of a series of 39 presented in our case study publication, Access and Participation in Higher Education: Outreach – Access – Support.