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.  

Meet the Project Coordinator

Rebecca Baker is the Project Coordinator for Starting Point and has been part of the team since 2014. Here she gives a short interview about her role, the highlights of her work, and her own interests.

What the role involves:

“Mentoring; supporting some of the mentors; administration of various areas of the project, including recruitment, databases and record-keeping, updating and implementing project policies and procedures; organising work experience placements; planning events.”

Rewards of the role:

“Seeing the young people we support take steps forward in personal growth. It’s always brilliant when they find a job or get a place on an apprenticeship or training course!”

Highlights/Best bits:

“The highlight of my time with Starting Point was when a young person that I had been supporting for 2 years, finally managed to get a job after overcoming lots of setbacks. She is still there now, more than a year later, and is doing great within the role!”

Why volunteer at Starting Point?

“Standing alongside a young person to encourage and support them in their journey can make a huge difference in helping them find a more hopeful future.”

Typical day of work:

“My day can be very varied! There are usually lots of admin tasks such as checking emails and responding to anything urgent, developing new evaluation forms, processing new volunteer applications, emailing mentors with information on job opportunities and training courses, or requesting timesheets. I may also be meeting a young person to work on their CV, or catching up with one of my mentees on the phone.”

Hobbies and interests:

“Time with family, good food with friends, visiting Cornish beaches, baking cakes, watching films.”

Introducing Calum

Good morning everybody. Or maybe you’re reading this in the afternoon or evening. No matter, this little blog won’t change depending on the time zone. I hope not anyway.

My name is Calum, with one L. Don’t get me started on two Ls.

I’m a current mentee with Starting Point and also volunteer for the project in social media and community journalism. This is an introduction to me, but don’t worry, I promise not to drag on and bore you with the details.

I was born in the 1990s and have lived in Reading my entire life. Shocking I know. As for my hobbies and interests, I like writing and reading fantasy novels, drawing cartoons/manga-like pictures, and my favourite programme currently is Doctor Who.

I won’t go into why I became a mentee or the experiences I have had being one, because that is better explained in another blog that you will find a link for down below.

My Story – Calum Harbor

Anyway, that’s my introduction over.

I hope you read my story and other blogs and enjoy what I have to say.







Meet the Project Manager

Sam Lloyd is Starting Point’s Project Manager and has been at Starting Point since July 2016. Here he gives a short interview about his role, the highlights of his work, and his own interests.

What the role involves:

“In a nutshell, I oversee the running of project. This includes recruiting and training mentors, meeting and matching the young people, monitoring and supporting each mentoring match. I also manage the budget, connect with businesses and other services and strategically plan for the growth of the project. I am also a mentor to young people not yet ready to match to a volunteer.”

Rewards of the role:

“Seeing the lives of local young people transformed. What makes me love my job is knowing that we are not just supporting young people find a positive destination, but we are seeing the direction of their future change course.”

Highlights/Best bits:

The highlight is always at the end of mentoring, looking back with a young person at how far they have come and seeing them beam with pride in what they have achieved – Whatever that may be.”

Why volunteer at Starting Point?

“To come alongside someone, take a genuine interest in them, and support them as they journey through a difficult yet crucial stage in their life, is such a simple and easy thing to do. Yet it has a transforming impact.”

Typical day of work:

“Every day looks completely different as I am always meeting different people. This may be a mentor, a young person, a manager at a business, someone at school, another community group. I enjoy the excitement of each day being different and meeting people I would have never met otherwise.”

Hobbies and interests:

”I enjoy playing guitar and writing songs. I watch and play a lot of football. I have a son aged one so my favourite hobby is playing with him.”

Sam’s dream for Starting Point:

“I hope to grow Starting Point here in Reading without losing our relational approach. I also long to develop the project to a point where it can be replicated in other town across the region so that more young people can have access to a mentor who can journey with them into education, employment and training.”