My Story – Calum Harbor – Part 2

Hi, I’m Calum. If you don’t know me or haven’t read part 1 of my story, then I’ll indulge you in a quick recap: I came to Starting Point as a mentee in the spring of 2017 due to a plethora of mental illnesses including social anxiety, lack of confidence and motivation, and possibly depression. They matched me with a mentor and gave me opportunities I could only have imagined at the time. If you’d like to find out more, follow the link here to the first half of my journey.

I’ve chosen to write this second blog about my journey for a number of reasons, some personal and private, others to inspire people young and old – you may choose which of those two categories you call home. So please sit comfortably for the second half of my tale. Ready? Let’s go…

Picture it: Reading town centre, January 2019. I met with Sam (Starting Point’s project manager) and my then mentor, Hannah, for a meeting at Starbucks to discuss my journey so far. We all agreed it was time to change gears – we had worked on my confidence, now it was time to land me a job. This meant a change of mentors was needed. Sam described to me a new mentor who’d recently joined Starting Point, Emma. He believed us to be a perfect fit and set up a meeting for the following week. Whilst it was sad to say goodbye to Hannah, we both knew it was time to move on.

I met Emma the next month. I was anxious about meeting her, but it turned out I had nothing to fear – we really were a perfect match. Whilst she was much more extroverted, our humour was on point and we clicked almost immediately. She was what I needed at that moment – someone who wasn’t afraid to push me, but would also listen and be patient. She was also great at the job searching side, finding me applications and helping improve my CV to include my journalistic and social media skills I gained through doing Starting Point’s feed. This all led to my first interview in almost three years – an apprenticeship for the Maidenhead Advertiser. Whilst I ultimately didn’t get the job, from the feedback they provided, it sounded like I was close.

Two months pass and I’m starting to lose confidence again. Though Emma reminded me how young I was (24 at the time), I was still ashamed of never having paid work though my CV was chock full of voluntary experience. I felt pathetic, a disappointment to myself and my family. Then came a miracle…

I filled out an application for John Lewis in and was lucky enough to land an interview in July 2019. It was half group assessment, half formal interview. I don’t know how I did it – perhaps luck or natural ability and sincerity? – but I got the job. My third interview ever and I’d succeeded. I got the offer the next day and my family were ecstatic. It was like a great weight was lifted from my shoulders. After two years of mentoring, after six years of not feeling good enough, after six years of thinking I would never be employed, someone gave me a chance.

I was due to start my new job on August 5th. I was sad to leave my friends and the comfort of my volunteering job in the Royal Berkshire Hospital, but I was glad to have finally left. I was anxious on my first day at John Lewis, not knowing what to expect. I arrived on that first day and was taken upstairs with a small group of other new employees where Induction would be carried out, introducing me to the John Lewis Partnership and its values. On that same day I struck up a friendship with one of the group, a girl a few years younger than myself.

Throughout my probation period, I was scared I’d fail and be kicked out, back to square one. But that didn’t happen. Instead I became extremely likeable to my colleagues. My floor’s Selling Coach took me aside and informed me it was a pleasure to work with me. I wasn’t doing anything special, just working hard like always and keeping my head down. I also became aware of something my colleague said about me: I don’t run away from challenges. I might get stressed, but I always follow the task through to the end and keep my promises.

When my annual performance review arrived in the following January, my manager told me about the potential he and my colleagues saw in me, calling me assertive and imperative, and that he’d like to get me involved in projects. This was a massive boost to my confidence. At one point I applied for a BBC apprenticeship scheme, my chosen location Cardiff. Though I was unsuccessful, I was never scared of the thought of moving away; I was excited.

My mentoring came to an end by the end of the year, having moved into Amber and then progressing to Green. However, I was adamant not to suddenly disappear from Starting Point. I wanted to continue supporting the project and help it grow. Sam contacted me about forming a group of mentees who could help improve the project, wanting me to eventually lead it, and I accepted. I felt honoured that Sam wanted me to act as a leader, being more of a follower at the time. I don’t know what makes a good leader, as there are so many qualities, but Sam obviously thought I had what it took.

With my new found confidence, and inspired by my friend at John Lewis who was following her dreams of becoming an illustrator, I took the decision to sign up for singing lessons in March. I’ve always held a passion for performing and wanted to try and pursue it. Unfortunately the dreaded subject of 2020 arrived soon after my first lesson. During this uncertain and expanding time period, I received an email from Sam inviting me to become a mentor on the new Advance Mentoring project, helping mentees aged 11-19. Ever since my mentoring ended, I’d always considered becoming a mentor one day, though not for another year or two. I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly good teacher or role model. But Sam came to me himself and that gave me the confidence to sign on. It’s one thing to volunteer yourself – it’s another for someone to suggest you. I now hold the honour of being the first mentee to become a mentor at Starting Point, something I am extremely proud of.

This past year has thrown me new challenges, (as it has all of you) but it has also given me the confidence I needed to succeed. 18 months ago, I was terrified of applying for jobs, lost in hopelessness, and fearful of the future. I won’t lie and say these fears are completely gone. There are some days and nights I feel low and ashamed of my past, a spider’s web of negative thoughts and memories.

But there are positives I focus on: I now have friends to socialise with, knowledge about household products that will come in useful, money to spend on my interests (mostly books), and the independence I’ve craved for years. I’m slowly but surely leaving my comfort zone. My plan now is to save up enough to move out, perhaps even leave Reading, before I’m 30. I have 4 years before that happens. If so much can change in one, I’m sure I can accomplish this.

I plan on restarting my singing lessons and in September will join a local professional acting group to gain the skills needed before applying for LAMDA. If that fails I’ll go into journalism. A few months ago, a stranger I met during my rounds for the hospital radio believed I’d one day be a star. Call it delusional, but I like to believe she could be right. No one can predict the future though – if we could, we might do more harm than good.

Starting Point was a great experience for me and was exactly what I needed: friendly and patient with opportunities to help me find my way. They truly cared and wanted me to succeed. They made me feel valued.

Whilst I wish it hadn’t taken two years, maybe I needed that time to get to where I am today and wherever I’ll be in the future. And to anyone reading this, let my story and journey be the light that guides your path. I managed to pull myself from the abyss with the help of Hannah, Emma, Sam, and dozens of other people. They reached out their hands and I grabbed hold.

I don’t really know how to end this, so I’ll simply end it with a quote I found on the internet:

“Sometimes reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey.

At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.”

Vera Nazarian

Meet the Mentoring Lead: Keren Newnham

How long have you been at SP

I began working with Starting Point in April, 2019.

What is your Role title

Mentoring Lead (Traffic Light Mentoring)

What does your role involve

My role involves a number of different aspects.  I receive all the referrals for 16-25 year olds, and organise to meet with new referrals as soon as possible.  I hear young people’s stories, and together with the young person, begin to individually, tailor a mentoring plan that will best suit their needs.  I also meet with the young people quite quickly after the initial introduction, to encourage engagement with Starting Point and answer any questions they may have.  Another aspect is mentoring a number of young people myself, for a longer period of time.

I also assess and oversee mentor/mentee matches.  

Another part of my role is recruiting, training, supervising and communicating with all our volunteer mentors.  I receive their applications, process the paperwork, and make sure they have everything they need to embark on a positive journey as a mentor.

Rewards of the role

So many rewards!  It is a privilege to share in the growth and development of so many young people.  I love hearing their stories, and feel honoured that people share some of the most difficult parts of their lives with me, so that we can work through it together and come out the other side in a healthier, more positive state.  Working together to find what young people love and are passionate about is also a huge reward.  I get excited when someone tries something for the first time, or maybe the 100th time, and they are successful.  Ask a young person who has had a success story recently, and they’ll tell you I get so excited, I jump up and down and want to dance in public!!

I also love working with volunteers, and seeing their passion and gifts utilised in such a powerful and positive way.  Our volunteers are awesome humans, who bring so much experience, knowledge and enthusiasm to their mentoring roles.    

Another highlight, or reward, is the way the Starting Point team work together.  Everyone is very respectful of each other’s gifts and talents, and the conversations we share are all driven by how we can best serve the young people of Reading.  Working with such passionate people, who love what they do each day, makes it a joy to go to work each day.

Why work at SP/why help young people

Starting Point stood out to me as an organisation, initially because of its values.  We strive to unlock potential in young people, enable young people to achieve their dreams and sustain positive change, and then release young people into the world with the confidence and skills to continue striving.  Starting Point also enable each young person to be met where they are at, as an individual with a life journey, who deserves space and time to be heard.  I also really loved the ethos of serving young people in Reading in a practical way.

Why help young people?  Working with young people has always been something I have done, either directly or indirectly.  Too often, young people have lots of expectations riding on them, yet they don’t have the skills, role models or capacity to help them achieve those expectations.  Rather than complaining about the next generation, or moaning about how things were better back in my day, I would rather get stuck in, be a positive role model, make a general impact, and help influence young people in Reading so that they can be the difference in future.

Typical day of work

I am an early riser, so I think best in the mornings and tend to get a lot of paperwork and administrative tasks done quite early.  I start each day by checking my calendar for the next day, and contacting my mentees to confirm our meeting times/locations.  I like a strong black coffee to clear my head, and drink plenty of water whilst I am tapping away at my computer too!  I receive a lot of text messages, so I will also respond to these and make sure I answer any phone calls from the night before.  For the rest of the day, I am running to catch buses, running to coffee shops, or running to a meeting!  You will often see me dashing through town to get from one appointment to the next.  Young people typically like to meet up in the afternoons or evenings, so the rest of the day is spent catching up with them, meeting new referrals, or meeting with volunteers.  A lot of coffee and tea is consumed each day!

Hobbies and interests
I have a family of my own, and I love spending time with them.  I go and watch them in the various sports they play and compete in, help them with schoolwork and generally navigate life.  I also enjoy hosting social events in our home and regularly have people visit with us.  

I love going to the gym and pretending I am really fit and strong.  I’m not really but I can pretend!  I am interested in nutrition and how certain foods/exercise affect our moods and general health.  If I have some time to myself, I enjoy reading and writing, and taking our motorbike out into the countryside for a ride on a sunny day.  I also love learning, and will educate myself about different topics of interest.

Your dream for SP

My dream is for Starting Point to grow into a project that is replicated all over the UK, not because we want to be the biggest and best, but because we want to help as many young people as we can, remove the barriers that stand in their way, and support them into a life of their choosing.  


What comes to mind when somebody says the word ‘Berkshire’? Likely the first thing you’ll think of is the town of Windsor and Windsor Castle. Perhaps Legoland or maybe even large towns such as Reading and Maidenhead. But what if I tell you there is a vast number of generous supporters connected with local charities through the Berkshire Community Foundation. The work these charities do transforms not only the lives of those they work with, but also the community around them.

On 16th May 2019, over 80 guests gathered together at the beautiful Ascot Racecourse for Berkshire Community Foundation’s Celebrating Impact: Showcase Event, an event celebrating the achievements and developments of local charities and projects. The groups were invited because of their strong focus and impact on those in need or who are disadvantaged.

Beginning with canapes and drinks, the evening transitioned to a small awards ceremony introduced by BBC Radio Berkshire Sports Presenter Ady Williams, and Chris Dodson OBE DL, Chair of Trustees at BCF, starting with a video showing BCF’s highlights over the past year. Each award winner was introduced through a similar videos with interviews from staff/volunteers and those they have helped. The six awards and winners were:

Content Guru Sponsor Award  – Connecting Communities in Berkshire

David Brownlow Charitable Foundation Sponsor Award – Building for the Future

Ascot Racecourse Supports Sponsor Award – Aik Saath

Vital Signs Award – The Mustard Tree – Starting Point

Police and Crime Commissioner Award – Mock Trials

Mary Bayliss Award – Parents and Children Together

Lady Cathrine Stevenson DL presented the Mary Bayliss Award, which was named in honour and memory of Mary Bayliss, the president of BCF and former Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, who sadly passed in March 2019. The evening was brought to a close by Ady Williams and Chris Dodson.

It was an honour and privilege to attend BCF’s showcase event and to receive an award that celebrates the invaluable support and work from our staff, volunteers, supporters, and also our mentees.

It was a real privilege being invited to such a well put together and celebratory evening. Berkshire Community Foundation have been key in the success of Starting Point, not only in awarding grants but in their ongoing support and encouragement.

Sam Lloyd – Starting Point Manager

We look forward to working with BCF for many years to come.

For more information on the evening, please click on and follow the link to BCF’s own blog about the ceremony:

The Mentoring of: Darth Vader

Over 40 years ago, films entered a new era with the release of Star Wars, the epic space saga created by George Lucas. It’s a franchise known by everyone and adored by many. It has spawned countless famous characters and launched the careers of highly recognised and respected actors and actresses.

It also gives detailed looks into mentoring, teaching us things we may have known but could not picture in our heads. For example, Yoda’s line of “Do or do not, there is no try,” is used by both fans and mentors across the globe.

But this blog will be focusing on one specific character, that of Darth Vader, formally known as Anakin Skywalker, during Episodes 1 to 3 as he begins his journey of bad mentoring, lost love, and choosing which side he must fight for.  

The Misguided Mentors

Four Jedi, third from the left played by Samuel L. Jackson.
No copyright infringement is intended.

Let’s begin with the Jedi, a monk-like organisation of peace keepers which has existed for thousands of years. When we are introduced to them, the Jedi are seemingly negotiators with laser swords. They try not to engage in violence unless the situation calls for it. Due to their beliefs, the Jedi train themselves to become near emotionless, banishing romantic or family attachments because they are considered a path to the Dark Side.

In The Phantom Menace, we learn the Jedi’s archenemies the Sith have been considered extinct for a thousand years. This has caused the Jedi to become ignorant and blind, not believing they have returned without the Jedi knowing when one of their own delivers such news. They are quick to deny the suggestion until Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master fight a Sith and kill him. Even so, they are slow on the uptake, allowing members to abandon the Jedi Order and eventually join the Sith.

If our planet was looking for mentors, I would not recommend the Jedi. Mentors should bring out the best in their students, not brainwash them into compliance. How can a mentee succeed if everything they love gets removed or pushed away, if they aren’t given the chance to be themselves? The Jedi refused to adapt and held to an outdated way of thinking, which ultimately led to their downfall at the hands of the Sith.

The Rise of Darth Vader

From right to left, the five stages of Darth Vader.
No copyright infringement is intended.

The main plot line of the Prequel Trilogy is the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into the feared Darth Vader. In the Phantom Menace, Anakin lived nine years before meeting the Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn on a seemingly random occasion. Freed from slavery but forced to leave his mother behind, Anakin was taken to the Jedi Temple for further testing. He passed the test, but the Jedi, especially Yoda, were fearful of training him because of his attachments to his mother. When Jinn was slain, Obi-Wan took Anakin as his apprentice.

In Attack of the Clones, Anakin is now nineteen and is becoming a rebellious and grouchy student. Anakin is too brash and hot-headed for Obi-Wan to train effectively, leading to defeat against the fallen Jedi, Count Dooku. Anakin and Padme enter a relationship and by the end of the film, are married in a secret ceremony. By doing this, Anakin has broken a strict rule of the Jedi. If they ever discovered his marriage, he would either be forced to abandon Padme or the Jedi Order.

In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin falls to the Dark Side. A combination of lack of faith in the Jedi, and empty promises of saving Padme from death, results in the birth of Darth Vader. The final push comes when Anakin chooses Padme over the Jedi and later dones the iconic black suit, helmet, and cape and accepts his new role, mourning the death of his wife in a terrifying rage of power.

Throughout Anakin’s story, it is apparent he feels frustration and disappointment about how the Jedi are treating him and teaching him. Mentors should never bring these feelings out of their mentees. If mentees do feel this way, then the mentor is not only failing them, but they are failing themselves too.


Darth Vader with his evil master, Emperor Palpatine.
No copyright infringement is intended.

I could talk about Darth Vader’s entrance into the Star Wars universe for thousands more words, but we must keep it short, so I shall summarise.

In conclusion, Anakin Skywalker is a mentoring failure of epic proportions. Not only was the one mentor who should have trained him killed, he was passed onto an inexperienced mentor and entered an organisation that did not trust him or want him, ending in betrayal and death. You could say the evil Emperor Palpatine gave Anakin better mentoring than his official teachers. The Jedi too easily pushed Anakin’s concerns and emotions aside, trying to force him into their way of thinking.

Let me ask you some questions. What would you do if Anakin was your mentee? How would you teach him? What advice would you give? How would you stop him from becoming Darth Vader? I highly recommend researching Anakin Skywalker’s mentoring and those connected to it, even if you are not a Star Wars fan or haven’t watched a single movie.

Darth Vader is a story of how not to mentor and when mentoring fails. Not to say that all young people will become Darth Vader, but without the proper mentoring tailored for them, they could walk a path neither you nor they wish to see.

Starting Point Monthly Update

It’s been a busy two months at Starting Point since our last update. Check out the list below to see what activities we have taken part in.


11th – Planning meeting for the new Mentoring Hub. – Due to open in autumn this year we are set to have a newly renovated Mentoring Hub at our central offices.

13th – 27th – Weekly Social Groups designed for Starting Point young people to grow in confidence, learn new skills, meet peers and try something new. – This was run in partnership with St Laurence.

19th – 20th – Held interviews for our new Mentoring Lead – This is to meet the significant growth of the project enabling us to mentor more young people. 

25th 26th and 27th– Transition Mentoring at UTC, Cranbury College and Reading Girls School. –


2nd – Partnership Meeting with the leaders of Reading Family Church on of the co-founders and long term supporters of Starting Point.

3rd – Social Group away day at Path Hill. – Making campfires, cooking campfire pizza.

10th – Talk at the local VISA offices. A chance to share about the impact Starting Point has the lives of young people. 

11th – Young Person and the Project Manager did a day’s volunteering together at a local community garden. This was with TVC (The conservation volunteers)

15th – Keren Newnham, our new Mentoring Lead started. Find out more about Keren

26th – Mock Interviews – We held mock interviews for 2 young people. This was an opportunity for them to develop their interview skills and grow in confidence. The feedback from these interviews is then worked on with their mentor.

Thank you to all involved in the activities above.

We’ll be back with another update in July, so stay tuned!

The Mentoring of: The Lion King

The Lion King is another movie that needs no introduction. Like Toy Story and Mary Poppins, it is a staple which holds together the childhoods of millions of people around the world. Based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the Lion King has launched two sequels, a remake, and a hit Broadway and West End musical that is still going strong today. It is also a great film that focuses on mentoring the young and moulding them into future leaders.

Heir to the Throne

Simba and Mufasa, voiced by Matthew Broderick and James Earl Jones.
No copyright infringement is intended.

The protagonist of the film is Simba, a young lion cub born to the king and queen of the pride. Being a child, Simba is of course impatient, hyperactive, and is easily distracted. His father, Mufasa, teaches Simba about his future role, claiming that “everything the light touches in our kingdom” and that one day “the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king.” When Simba inquires on a patch of shadowed land, Mufasa orders his son never to go there.

Naturally, Simba is excited about being king and believes it means he can do whatever he wants, though Zazu, Mufasa’s right-hand bird, tries to correct him. Simba also disobeys his father and ventures into the shadowy land, the Elephant Graveyard, earning him a strong ticking off from Mufasa afterwards.

Straight away, the film shows that although his elders are teaching him valuable lessons, Simba chooses to not listen to them, instead listening to his uncle, Scar. Easily manipulated, Simba places himself in dangerous situations that later lead to a very dramatic event.

A Life of Lies

Timon and Pumbaa teaching Hakuna Matata to Simba.
No copyright infringement is intended.

Tricked by Scar into a gorge, Simba is faced with a stampede of wildebeests that ultimately ends in Mufasa dying after Scar betrayed him. Simba is traumatised by this and believes himself responsible, fleeing the pride lands, and getting found by Timon and Pumbaa, two best friends living in a jungle paradise and who teach him to let go of his worries. Unfortunately for him, Simba meets his childhood sweetheart Nala again and learns the tyranny Scar is imposing as king.

Although some might criticise how quickly Simba seemingly recovered from his father’s death, the fact he refuses to return and stop Scar shows how deep the event has effected him, damaging his mental state and is torn between doing what is right for him and right for the lion pride.

Simba is an echo of those who experience loss, especially at a young age. People will often chose to block out the harsh reality by throwing themselves into happier activities and distractions. However, not everyone can do this and fall into sadness and depression. It would be interesting to see what would have happened if Timon and Pumbaa hadn’t found Simba.

Long Live the King

Uploded by HD Clips.
No copyright infringement is intended.

With Rafiki the baboon’s assistance, Mufasa’s spirit comes to Simba, telling his son he has forgotten who he was and therefore forgetting his own father. Simba is more than who he currently is and must take his place as the rightful king. Simba is left now determined to face Scar, but he is also scared of his past. Rafiki offers some wise words; Simba can either run away from his past or learn from it.

This relates to many of us. All of us have made mistakes in the past, some bigger than others. They can be hard to accept, but learning from them can lead to success, because people learn from their mistakes, allowing them to become more confidence and intelligent. Simba’s mistake was that he fled, when he should have stayed.

Having learnt from his mistake, and with his new found courage and help of his friends, Simba topples Scar and claims the throne, leading the pride into a hopeful future and becomes a father, continuing the Circle of Life.


Simba returns in The Lion King 2019 remake.
No copyright infringement is intended.

The Lion King is a film that has created not only wonderful mentors, but also a brilliant young person (or should that be animal?). Simba’s adventure from childhood prince to adult king captures the experiences many go through in their early years.

It teaches us to always listen to your elders (apart from evil lion uncles), to never give into your mistakes, learn from the past and use it for the future, and never forget who you are or where you come from. Too many people fail to confront these lessons and this sets them up for failure.

But if you choose to forgive yourself, be proud of who you are, and take the advice of others and heed their warnings, you can become a leader the likes of which Mufasa and Simba were and are.

Starting Point Values – Calum’s Experience

Hello everyone. I’m Calum and you might remember me. I’m the one who pumps out all those blogs like the one you’re reading right now. I’m also a volunteer and mentee at Starting Point. I haven’t done a blog about myself since the launch of the new website, so I think it’s time for a little update.

Recently I wrote three blogs about Starting Point’s key values and have decided to conclude the small series with a finale from my own view and experiences. Without further ado, let’s get started.


If you don’t remember, Unlocking is the value of finding a young person’s potential and fulfilling it through tailored support.

It’s a common theme with me that I cannot see my own potential. Many people say I have it, from Sam the Project Manager, my two mentors, and even my driving instructor. They all say I have the potential to succeed, perhaps greatly, if I simply have confidence in myself. However, it’s hard to see something about yourself that everybody else can.

My personal experience with Unlocking has been more through finding my personality group and being given new opportunities such as writing blogs and articles that have truly allowed me to see that my potential is in writing and anything to do with the English language. My confidence has also risen, so maybe that can be part of Unlocking as well.


Enabling is the value of sustaining a positive change so a young person can achieve their goals.

As I mentioned them before, the blogs for Starting Point and other opportunities have enabled me to keep writing and share them with a wider audience. I have also had the chance to interview people, both inside and outside Starting Point, and they have been nothing but kind and supportive, exactly what a person with low confidence needs.

When I first came to Starting Point, I was very shy, negative, and lacked motivation. But because of the Enabling value, Starting Point has caused me to become more outgoing, take a more positive outlook on life, and has given me motivation because only through them have I finally decided what I want to do for a job/career. If that’s not sustaining, then I don’t know what is.


Releasing speaks for itself, but I’ll happily explain it again. It’s the value of releasing a young person from mentoring into a bright and happy future.

Unfortunately, I am still a mentee and therefore cannot talk a lot about Releasing, though I have experienced it is one way. I have recently changed mentors. You’re now perhaps thinking that I did something terribly wrong and my previous mentor no longer wanted to work with me. Well calm yourself because that’s not true at all.

I was released from one mentor to another because we all agreed the time had come to put our foot on the accelerator a bit more and change gear. If we’re talking about Releasing in terms of car gears, then Releasing is gear five, with gear four being employment.


Looking back over almost two years of mentoring, I can see how Starting Point has used the three values to help me along the way. I don’t think underestimating them is a possibility, especially when each one is tailored to each individual Starting Point helps.

There’s still a journey ahead, but I feel we might reach that final gear quicker than we thought, and when it does come, perhaps I will use those values for people I might one day train or mentor.

You never know, right?

The Mentoring of: Toy Story

There isn’t a millennial alive that doesn’t know Toy Story. Not only did it capture the attention and imagination of millions of children, it provided valuable mentoring lessons that everybody must go through.

A Cowboy and a Spaceman

Woody and Buzz Lightyear played by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.
No copyright infringement intended

The series follows a host of different and unique characters, but it mostly focuses on two of them: Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Woody is introduced as a control freak and leader/mentor of the toys kept by Andy, the boy who plays with them and who Woody is devoted to making happy.

Buzz Lightyear, on the other hand, believes he is a space ranger completely and not a toy. He is also someone who likes to play the hero and quickly makes friends with his fellow toys. This makes Woody jealous because he feels his position as leader and Andy’s favourite is fading away.

Over the course of the films, it is Woody who learns more lessons than Buzz. He becomes more accepting to change and less judgemental, though his loyalty to Andy sometimes gets in the way of his development.

Time to Say Goodbye?

Stinky Pete, Jessie, and Bullseye in Toy Story 2.
No copyright infringement intended

Woody is later stolen and at his kidnapper’s home, Woody meets Jessie, Bullseye and Stinky Pete, all of whom are cowboy toys and have been waiting years for Woody to join them. It is here Woody discovers his origin, being the protagonist of an old black and white television programme called Woody’s Roundup. He also learns that his kidnapper is a collector and that all of the toys, including Woody, will be sold to a Japanese museum. Pete tells Woody that Andy will grow up soon. Isn’t it better to be somewhere where he can last forever and not worry about being forgotten?

Although tempted at first, Woody convinces them to return with him to Andy, though Stinky Pete ultimately tries to ensure they go to Japan. Back home, Woody tells Buzz his is no longer worried about Andy growing up and states that when the time does come, he will have his friends there to keep him company.

It finally happens years later and the toys are forced to say a sad farewell to Andy, though they are passed onto a girl named Bonnie who loves her toys and plays with them like Andy used to.

Left Behind

Lotso and his henchmen in Toy Story 3.
No copyright infringement intended

Pixar is brilliant at inserting adult themes into their movies. Each one has an underlying message and in Toy Story, it’s the fact everybody grows up and gets rid of their toys. This is brought to attention in the second and third films through Jessie and Lotso, the villian in Toy Story 3.

For Jessie, she was purposely abandoned by her owner, unable to come to terms with this fact. However, unlike Jessie, Lotso was accidentally left behind and upon returning to his owner, learns he was replaced. This changed him into an uncaring and tyrannical toy, choosing to make other toys’ lives a misery instead.

These two characters echo similarities that happen to young people throughout the world. Whether on purpose or by accident, they are left behind across various forms, such as education. Whilst many will become like Jessie, some will go down Lotso’s path and will turn to crime, especially if they have nowhere to go and think prison is a better choice.


Woody and Buzz return in Toy Story 4 with friends old and new.
No copyright infringement is intended.

Toy Story is a film series that rarely happens and is full of great mentoring knowledge and life lessons. It teaches us about how teamwork is vital for success, that leadership must sometimes be shared to create a better place, to accept others no matter their differences, the loyalty between friends, and above all else, how change doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Randy Newman’s famous song You’ve Got a Friend in Me could easily be the theme song for Starting Point, though I think Disney and Pixar would have something to say about it.

Watch the four films and you might pick up advice that could not only help you but others too. So take your mentoring (as Buzz Lightyear would say) to infinity and beyond!

Starting Point Monthly Update – January/February

It’s time for our monthly update. This time is a double update, detailing what Starting Point was doing over the months of January and February.

Activities include:


3rd – Transition Mentoring at Reading Girls School

6th – Transition Mentoring at UTC.

22nd – Attended a ‘Brighter Futures for Children’ voluntary sector market place. A fantastic opportunity that has led to an increase in referrals.

23rd – Funding Bid Accepted – Allowing us to scale up as a project in a 3 year to refine, grow and replicate the project. Including hiring a new team member.

26th – Planning Meeting for our 2019 Social groups. – First one to start on the 13th March.

28th – A Mustard Tree get together – A chance to catch up with the other projects and prepare for the New Year.


1st, 7th and 21st – 4 new Match Meeting – matching young people to their new mentors in our Traffic Light Mentoring Programme.

11th – Red Balloon – Mentoring presentation for 3 students taking part in our Transition Mentoring.

14th – Assisted 2 young people to attend the London Irish Hitz Programme.

18th – Started advertising for the new role – Mentoring Lead.

25th – Young person and mentor photo shoot – This is for our new brochure.

25th – Young person feedback meeting – We want to tailor our project to the young people we support, giving a voice to local young people.

26th – Mentor Supervision – An opportunity for our mentors to learn from each other in their mentoring.

Thank you to all involved in the activities above. Look forward to our March update next month and all future blogs over the coming weeks.

Starting Point Values: Releasing

Starting Point has three values that make up the core of the project. They are Unlocking, Enabling, and Releasing.

Eventually, the time comes where the birds must leave the nest. There is no telling when they will fly because people move at different speeds, but when they do, ensuring they have the best start possible is a must.

Releasing a young person from their mentoring with Starting Point can only be done after Unlocking and Enabling are completed. Without them finished, moving onto Releasing would not yield the best results and could hinder a young person’s potential future jobs and careers.

In some ways, Releasing is like school. Teachers teach you valuable knowledge that will help you reach future achievements, but schools cannot teach you forever. One day, the time comes when students will leave to forge the next chapter of their lives.

Stepping away from one thing into another can be scary. But there’s no reason to be if you can hit the ground running. That’s what Starting Point does, helping young people run and then letting them out the door into a bright new world.

The best part about Releasing is watching a young person go forward with confidence and courage, knowing they can see the opportunities available to them and can grab them.