A group of young women and gender-diverse people in the Illawarra are searching for a role model, someone to cheer them on through life's ups and downs.
Kellie Kenny looks back at her childhood and remembers the people who helped her become the woman she is today, now she's proud to be that person for someone else in their teen years.
The Bellambi resident loves being able to connect with her go-getter mentee.
"She's already wanting to tackle life's challenges. So for me, it's just beautiful watching that happen and that's all they need, they already have it in them what they want to achieve out of life," Mrs Kenny said.
"It's just having someone beside them that can cheer them on."
Currently 65 young people, who are in contact with the youth justice and child protection systems are on a waiting list to be part of the Youth Frontiers Mentoring program.
YWCA, a feminist organisation focusing on women's housing and gender equity, runs the program with non-profit organisation Whitelion.
They are calling out for women and gender diverse people in Wollongong and Shellharbour to join the program as there are plenty of mentees and not enough mentors.
Youth Frontiers program co-ordinator Jennifer Rose said the young people on the wait-list are looking for a mentor for different reasons.
"Some of them are just wanting an extra adult in their life to support them," Ms Rose said.
"Some people might come from a large family and so they're looking for that one-on-one time."
Ms Rose said some young people want help from an adult to fill out forms, apply for a tax file number and navigate different systems.
"Some of our younger participants are just wanting a supportive adult in their life and some are keen to do recreational activities like going to Flip Out, to the beach, getting their nails done, visiting the temple, rock climbing, the movies ...
"No pressure, just having a really fun time together," she said.
Mrs Kenny acknowledged "the fearless young people" who have put their hand up to ask for a role model, who now sit on a waiting list.
"We have all these brave, young women and gender diverse youth that are saying 'Yes, we would like some help. We want this'. I just think that's amazing," she said.
The program is for young women and gender-diverse people aged between 10 and 17.
They are connected with someone based on their personality, shared interests and location. The program creates a bond, similar to a big-sister little-sister initiative, to create a safe and inspiring relationship.
"I myself had, I guess, a difficult time growing up and I'm proud of that. I'm proud of where I started and where I am now," Mrs Kenny said.
She describes her childhood as a "non-tradition upbringing", living in housing commission with a single-mum.
"That could be tough because you can lose yourself and I think when I look back on it now at that time. I think we all need connection to others and to be inspired by other people that have lived that experience," Mrs Kenny said.
"So to be able to perhaps share that experience as well with someone else that might be struggling in that stage of life."
No previous mentoring experience is needed to join, with training and ongoing support provided.
"We already have that experience as women with being that age and knowing how difficult that age can be," Mrs Kenny said.
"We've already got all the tools just by having that lived experience and that compassion and empathy of how difficult that age can be.
"I'm grateful to be a part of helping someone to navigate that time."
The mentors sign up for a minimum of 12 months spending a few hours per fortnight.
To find out more about YWCA Youth Frontier Mentoring program here.
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