Clendon Park School is one of the schools across Auckland offering MATES Junior to Year 8 students. The programme is highly sought after by students (mentees) who look forward to spending their Thursdays after school paired with university students (mentors) for a couple of hours each week. It’s a positive way for the school to give students the space and opportunity to prepare academically, socially, and culturally if they need more support getting ready to transition to high school.

Tania Manuera, teacher-in-charge of MATES at Clendon Park

Tania Manuera, teacher-in-charge for MATES explains that because the school is a full primary, many of her students have never seen past the one school and Manurewa is all they know. Being able to bring in mentors from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds is powerful for broadening students’ minds to what is available to them in the wider world.

Tania says what makes MATES successful is that students choose to be part of it rather than the school putting them into it. This year she received 52 applications of interest. "Our selection criteria was simple; we were after students with high attendance who had no obligations on a Thursday afternoon and needed academic support." There were limited places available, so there is a waiting list. Tania tells us she had one student who missed out and was so determined to join that he wrote a letter every week for a term telling her why he should be included!

Diversity is something Tania believes we should embrace in New Zealand, and she loves how MATES teaches this. She says, “Initially when the kids meet their mentor, they often see someone who looks different, speaks differently, and appears to have nothing in common. After developing a relationship and learning more about their mentor they see someone who shows them the possibilities and makes them feel great.”

The weekly sessions bring a sense of belonging and students quickly learn that it is purposeful for them. Whether this is doing better academically, gaining self-confidence they never had before, discovering they have a voice and speaking up for themselves, or learning about potential future pathways.

Listening to Tania, she is passionate about giving her students opportunities to thrive, see beyond what is in front of them and expose them to different environments and experiences that will help them grow into great human beings. She believes in MATES and says, “As teachers, we can only teach so much.”