“LUL has made me realise that my opinion is valid and that there are people that want to hear it.”
Aspen was speaking to a packed room, gathered to celebrate our first ever graduation. One of the original group of young people that we worked with, Aspen was just 13 when her and her mentor Richard, first met. Although she was clearly a bright person, hefty struggles with self-belief and self-expression had left Aspen drifting further and further from school life and learning. Three and a half years and many LUL sessions later, she confidently stood up to tell the room (which included some pretty Important Official People) about her imminent departure to study in China for a year, presenting a vlog all about her journey with LUL (look out for that in a couple of weeks).
With the type of work that we do, it can sometimes be hard to measure impact. People – and we include ourselves in this - often crave stats, a graph showing some kind of percentage climbing through the roof: we’ve found that whilst we can provide those, it’s the story behind the figures that provides any motivation needed on a dreich Monday morning. Hence taking over a classroom in Lasswade and filling it with the extended LUL community and a ridiculous amount of sausage rolls. Nothing communicates better the effect of the work we do – along with our partners - than hearing the mentees themselves stand up and enthusiastically tell you about their future plans; to see a parent so affected by witnessing the change in their child that they make a point of telling every person in the room about it; or perhaps best of all, having to (politely) tell the aforementioned Important Official People that they need to stop chatting to the mentees and the teachers and shift, so you can have your tea.
The stories keep coming: Cameron (another of our original cohort) was inspired by his LUL sessions to see school through to the end, and is now off to study Travel and Tourism at Edinburgh College; Jamie achieved AAB at National 5 Level and was headhunted for a competitive apprenticeship; and Thomas spoke about how his relationship with his mentor helped him to turn an interest in rugby into a committed journey to study Sports Psychology at university – and when he’s not talking Scotland team stats, Thomas is talking about how he can become a LUL mentor himself.
It’s important to note that none of this – including the sausage rolls - would be possible without a whole host of supporters. Our celebration was also an opportunity to thank our committed and engaged funders, the teachers who work incredibly hard for the young people in their care, the outside professionals who give generously of their time and expertise, and the parents who support the programme at home. You’ll be hearing from our mentees again in the future, and needless to say, we’re proud of all the young people we’ve had the privilege to work with – thanks most of all to them.