Successful mentoring project brings hope to lower secondary pupils

Lower secondary school pupils with better grades, a prouder gaze, and enhanced self-confidence. These are the results of the LuMiNk academy, a project aimed at motivating pupils to study. LuMiNk has been under way in Norrköping for almost six years, and there are plans to make it available to more pupils.

Photo Anna Valentinsson

“I have a little sister who I hope can start at LuMiNk soon. She wants to, she just has to be admitted.”
Patricia Bank grew up in Croatia, and moved to Sweden in 2013. Now she’s studying nursing at LiU, and she hopes that her sister will also find her way to the university world.
“If it hadn’t been for LuMiNk, I would probably have taken a different route in life, and not studied a theoretical programme in upper secondary school. I wouldn’t have considered the possibility of further studies.”
Patricia Bank is one of more than 300 pupils from in and around the Norrköping suburb of Hageby who have taken part in the LuMiNk initiative since it began in 2015. That was when LiU, the Mirum Galleria (a shopping centre in Hageby) and Norrköping Municipality joined forces to encourage pupils from a disadvantaged neighbourhood to continue to higher education.
The concept is based on employing students to mentor the pupils. Over the years they have met in the Mirum Galleria, to study together once or twice a week, in their spare time. It is an optional programme, which sometimes includes study visits to the university and inspirational lectures.
“I wanted to focus on school and I had difficulty with mathematics and physics. At Mirum I got help, with other subjects too. It was tough at times; I was tired after school. But it was fun too. It was nice to get that attention from the students. They weren’t teachers, but they gave us another way of looking at studies. So I became curious about university”, says Patricia Bank, who is now halfway through her nursing studies.

Martin Karlsson is a senior teacher at the Klingsborg School in Norrköping where for many years he has taught lower secondary pupils from Hageby in sports and the social sciences. He maintains a strong engagement in his pupils, and is co-founder of LuMiNk. A photo of Lumink student Daniel Salim and teacher Martin Karlsson.Daniel Salim and Martin Karlsson. Photo credit Anna Nilsen
“Learning is the true focus, but the social aspects are equally important. The pupils can talk about what they’re going through, and confide in the students; they get an insight into the university world and see how new worlds emerge.”
LiU researchers have evaluated the programme, and found that the participating pupils have improved their grades. As a result, more pupils from Hageby are applying for upper secondary school programmes that prepare them for higher education.
“But we see other benefits too. The pupils’ self-confidence and self-image increase; that’s the most striking for us at the school. It cheers them up. The decision to take part is their own. They don’t meet teachers, they meet students, and the students can be friends, or social contacts, or a help with their studies. This builds success. Here you can really talk about social sustainability, both at societal and individual levels”, says Martin Karlsson.
Daniel Salim, one of Martin’s pupils, is in year nine and has attended LuMiNk for two years.
“It’s a great feeling to get help with my studies in my spare time, and I enjoy hanging out with the mentors. They've got me to think things through a bit more”, he says.
Now Daniel Salim is applying for the economics programme at senior high school, and plans to continue his studies after that.
“LuMiNk has been a huge help to me”, says Daniel, who hopes that his younger friends will seize the chance to take part. A photo of Daniel Salim who attends Lumink.Daniel Salim. Photo credit Anna NilsenDuring the 2020/21 academic year, 20 student mentors are participating. These include Nellie Engström, who is studying media technology at Campus Norrköping. She sees that as a mentor, she also benefits.
“I learn more about collaboration and developing projects. Plus, I get a better picture of what it's like to be a teenager today. I'm only 22 but a lot has happened during the past few years. When I was that age, social media weren't such an important part of life, and so I never had to deal with the difficulties that they bring, such as maintaining concentration.”
Because of the pandemic, the most recent meetings have been online. This has made the job more difficult, but the technology is adapted to the situation.
“It gives us the opportunity to learn digital possibilities, to develop and to constantly evaluate how we can do things better”, says Nellie Engström. She would like to see more LiU students becoming mentors. A photo of Lumink mentor Nellie Engström.Nellie Engström. Photo credit Anna Nilsen
“The pupils we meet are great gang, we have fun together. It wasn't long ago we were in secondary school ourselves, I remember what it was like.”
Senior teacher Martin Karlsson points out that LuMiNk is very much in demand amongst the pupils.
“They have siblings, cousins and neighbors who ask how they can take part in the meetings. So far we haven't said no to anyone. But now we want to take it to a new level, to reach more neighbourhoods in Norrköping, such as Navestad and Klockaretorpet.”

Kristina Lyngenberg at LiU Donation welcomes financial support from more partners and donors.
“This way they become enablers, so we can extend the programme, for instance with extra educational support and resource purchases, so more young people can be offered a place.”

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