“I feel honour in having played a small part in their lives.”: A ‘Week In the Life’ of a Youth Project Coordinator

Every year, Children North East reaches thousands of babies, children, young people and families across the North East and beyond… Our ‘Week in the Life’ blog series shines a spotlight on some of the amazing people who help make that impact possible, from practitioners working in the heart of communities to teams behind the scenes keeping the lights on.

In this edition, we meet Quinn Stanger, who moved roles within Children North East to Project Coordinator for SEND and Short Breaks Peer Mentoring services. The work he does is wide-ranging from training volunteer Peer Mentors to working with the young people receiving peer support. Let’s learn more…

What’s the first thing you’re doing on Monday morning?

Catching up with my fellow Coordinator, Sarah Bell, usually kicks off a Monday morning, allowing us to review the current status of referrals and matches whilst highlighting the priorities for the week. Fortnightly we also have a Short Breaks mini-team meeting, including the two youth workers providing additional support for the projects. Following these meetings, the week’s work begins in earnest, catching up on emails and new referrals, reviewing 1-2-1 mentor sessions for the week and looking at the myriad of internal and external meetings in my calendar that week. We’re so busy now that I have to ensure I schedule time for lunch!

What does a typical day look like for you?

Firstly, there is no typical day! With our projects spanning North East and North Cumbria, with so many moving parts, staff must be flexible and adaptable to current situations.

My work can be split into two parts: the young people referred to our service and the volunteer mentors. Once received, a referral for a young person involves an initial enquiry with the referrer to gather further information and an update on the young person’s situation. 

Following we then organise an initial assessment with the young person in the family home; this allows us to get to know the young person, their strengths and areas they’d like to improve, in turn, allowing us to develop goals that can be worked on with the mentor. All our work is person-centred, led by the young person and all about THEM!

Whilst the initial work with the young person is being carried out, in the background, Coordinators recruit, interview and carry out background checks on the volunteer mentors. 

All our mentors receive accredited training through ONE Awards and are intensively supported throughout their engagement with Children North East.

Coordinators then have a RAM (Referrals Allocation Meeting) to discuss mentors ready to match and which young person would be a good match. We try to match on hobbies and interests; however, sometimes it’s a gut instinct they’ll get on! There are strict procedures in place to support the 1-2-1 sessions between mentors and young people; a significant part of my week is supporting these sessions from afar, ensuring the safety of all involved.

In addition to my work on Peer Mentoring, I have recently been involved in several projects supporting young people identifying or questioning as LGTBQ+. We have a long-established group in Gateshead, PLUS, which I’m proud to have some involvement with; the young people attending are amazing and make me think about the world in every session.

To recruit mentors, we regularly attend events; I’ve been coordinated Children North East’s presence at Northern Pride in Newcastle this summer. Plenty of challenges present themselves in attending these events, and I love our teamwork approach to ensuring we deliver! I was really excited to have been be part of the Pride Parade with PLUS members and support our presence in the Family and Youth Zone this year, a first for Children North East.

I have also been involved in a piece of work delivered as an across-service team around Identity, Acceptance and Inclusion within the school environment. This exciting project has highlighted a need for increased awareness and support for young people exploring their identity (including gender and sexuality), particularly within education.  Watch this space for more developments…

What most excites you about your role as a Project Coordinator?

The progress and development of the individuals and families we work with makes all the hard work worthwhile.  For example, seeing a young person develop their communication skills, so they can express their wishes and opinions, to hearing that a young person has grown their independence by becoming able to access public transport alone. Discussing with mentors how they have developed individually and what they take away personally from volunteering. When you see a young person explore and discover their own identity, having space to be comfortable with themselves, to then share that positively with their families is so heartwarming, I feel honour in having played a small part in their lives.

What did you do before you Children North East?

It’s a been long and winding road to Children North East.  Initially, I aspired to be a Medical Officer in the Royal Navy, attending Medical School at a Scottish University. However, my mental health laid to rest those plans, and I’ve been back in the North East after three years in Scotland.  Having delved into pharmacy and retail management, I then spent several years learning to live with Bipolar Disorder. Volunteering within youth work, I got my drive back and have been progressing within the field ever since.  This year I finally finished a degree, although not the one I’d anticipated when I started it 18 years ago!

What do you enjoy outside of work?

Being surrounded by friends and family keeps me going.  Whether it’s hosting dinner parties, long walks in the country or somewhere in the sun by the pool! I’m known within work for having travelled to a number of Eurovision host cities to get involved with celebrations; I’m very interested to see where 2023 will take us! I also need a new hobby to fill the time I’ve spent studying over the last two years!