Mentoring Is a Two-Way Street



As a former First Foundation employee, Leanne Brittain (pictured left with mentee, Sok-Haing Yung) has observed many successful Mentor-Mentee relationships and knows what works and what does not. She has given advice to many Mentors and Mentees in her six years working at First Foundation, which provides a hand up to students who are worthy of assistance. She has also heard the heart-felt stories from both Mentors and Mentees about how much each individual has gained from knowing each other.

So, when an opportunity arose for Leanne to become a Mentor, she was very keen to put her observations to good use. Though, she adds, she is probably not your typical Mentor.

“I had not applied to be a Mentor, but I was working at First Foundation when team members Cornelia (Veikune) and Cecilia (Tuala) read Sok’s profile and said they had the perfect student for me to mentor,” Leanne says. “I read her profile and was very keen to do it.”

Class of 2017 scholar and former Aorere College student, Sok-Haing Yung is attending Massey University on Auckland’s North Shore. She has dreams of completing a Bachelor of Food Science and Technology and of becoming a leader of industry. Her long-term goal is to create an innovative healthy food product which is affordable for everyone.

These ambitions have led her to being matched with Mentor Leanne, who was a Food Technology Teacher “years ago”, and with Beate Schuler as her Scholarship Partner.

While their relationship is in its early stages, Leanne says she is enjoying getting to know Sok-Haing better.  “I am very impressed with her work ethic and the effort she goes to to attend Massey University on the North Shore – it is a very long day for her.”

In the early days of Mentor and Mentee relationships, it can be quite hard for some students to communicate directly with their Mentor, Leanne says. Doing an activity together instead of sitting opposite each other over lunch or coffee is much easier for them, she insists. For example, Leanne and Sok-Haing recently visited markets at the weekend.

“We then sat on a bank overlooking the water to have a chat and coffee, which was great, until the sewage truck came to unblock a drain - everyone scattered,” she laughs.

It is important for students to keep in regular contact with their Mentor – even if it’s just an update about an assignment – to keep the lines of communication wide open, Leanne adds.

Meanwhile, Sok-Haing initially decided she wanted to take part in First Foundation’s programme because she needed a way to fund her university fees. “After coming across many other scholarship providers, I noticed only First Foundation offered a proper structure and support for their recipients,” she says.

Through their three pillars of financial assistance, mentoring, and work experience, she could see their desire to ensure their recipients succeeded through life and went on to do great things.

“I knew a Mentor would be really beneficial, especially because I am the first member of my family to go to university, and the work experience would be great as my family and I don’t have any connections in my chosen industry.”

Before meeting Leanne, Sok-Haing says she was really worried about how the pair would get along.

“I’m naturally a very quiet person and I often find it difficult to talk to new people, but Leanne was super friendly and enthusiastic when we first met. She kept asking me so many questions and genuinely wanted to know about me that there were no chances for awkward silences to occur. Her cheerful and warm personality made me feel really comfortable and at ease when talking to her.”

Sok-Haing adds there are many benefits to being mentored, including having another older and wiser person you can turn to when you need advice. “Another great thing about being mentored is having a trusted adult you can rely on if, for whatever reason, you aren’t able to approach your parents about something.”

As a Mentee, it is important to show how appreciative you are of your Mentor and let them know it, Sok-Haing says. “Also, make the most of the short time you have with them. You don’t always have to turn to your Mentor when you need help or advice, but spend time with each other doing things you both enjoy.”

First Foundation is currently recruiting 150 mentors across the Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch regions, to help achieve its mission “to assist academically talented New Zealand students worthy of support to achieve their potential through tertiary education, and to prepare them to positively influence and benefit their communities".

Visit for more information on how to become a First Foundation mentor.

“After coming across many other scholarship providers, I noticed only First Foundation offered a proper structure and support for their recipients."