Excelsior College’s Nikita Mills is helping young people overcome difficulties in their lives by becoming a trained peer mentor for local charity Children North East.
Caring Nikita wanted to channel her life experiences and empathetic nature into helping others struggling to deal with personal issues.
She is now qualified as a Level 2 Peer Mentor after passing an assessment and interviews as part of Children North East’s peer mentoring programme – and then spending several months supporting a young girl to work through her personal problems.
Nikita, 18, who is studying Psychology, Photography and Art at A Level, has an unconditional offer from York St John’s University to study for a Counselling, Coaching and Mentoring degree. She aims to mentor and counsel young people, preferably in a school, as a career.
“This is my first little step to working with young people,” said Nikita. “When I was younger I had counselling, and from then on I wanted to do the same thing.
“I want to give back and help. Knowing you have someone there is massive. For me, it was a massive thing to have someone to talk to about random, silly stuff, which just made a difference.”
Nikita has found her time training to be a peer mentor hugely rewarding.
“It’s been really rewarding for me to see the massive leaps and bounds that the person I worked with has made from when we first met,” she said.
“It has opened my eyes about how much I would be able to be there for somebody; I know from my own experience that people can help but I now know that I can do it.
“I was matched with a young person and for four months met them once a week from about four o’clock until seven o’clock to help them make progress on their goals. I had training and ongoing support from staff at Newcastle Youth Link, a project run by Children North East.
“They learned me the different skills and techniques that I’d need, even the simple things like body language which are massive for communicating with a young person.
“It all depends on the person but there are a lot of different issues that can affect a person. There can be a lot to do with mental health and self-esteem, bullying, home issues, that’s where I step in to be there for them.
“I’m the person who shows them there are other things out there to help. When I took on the mentor’s role I really felt like an adult and responsible for somebody which was a massive thing.”
Being there for someone, listening and helping them work through their problems helped Nikita overcome barriers to her own self-confidence.
“I was so nervous at the start but as time went on I was better,” she said.
“We had our last session in April. They said that I’d helped them and it was really lovely to hear and made me a little upset.”
Ailsa Fenwick, Nikita’s Youth Link Co-ordinator, said: “’Nikita was a great mentor and role model for the young person she was matched with – by giving time and attention Nikita helped her mentee gain confidence and to see her problems in a different way.
“She was definitely a lot happier by the end of the mentoring. Nikita also grew in assurance and self-belief in her own skills and abilities. We wish her well and are sure she will continue to make a positive difference to lots of other young people’s lives in her chosen career.”
Donna Harrison, Excelsior College Pupil Welfare Manager, said: “Nikita is an inspirational young woman. She always puts other people first and goes over and above to make people feel confident and cared about.
“She has such an empathetic nature and is truly so compassionate about everything, from supporting students who are being bullied to trying to organise peaceful protests about current affairs. “