If the team from Jugend hackt asks their voluntary mentors why they actually support youths during their free time, the answer is often the same: they wish they would have had Jugend hackt at that age.
Jugend hackt wouldn't even exist without the mentors: over 10,000 hours of voluntary work are put into the program every year and the majority of this time is provided by mentors. They are at events and in the labs, support youths in project groups and are contacts for technical questions. On average, a mentor accompanies three youths with their project at events.
"When I come out from the weekend, I can almost dance my way through Berlin, because I realize: if what these kids put together is our future, then I look forward to this morning of tomorrow", as Simone, a mentor at an event in Berlin, once described her time.
For a program that wants to improve the world with code, it is clear that many of the mentors have programming experience, whether job-related or as a hobby. A good project or a good app, however, needs more than just a few lines of code. That is why there are also many mentors are Jugend hackt who share their knowledge regarding making, design or project management as well.
Mentorin und Teilnehmer bei Jugend hackt in Berlin 2019 (Quelle:CC-BY 4.0 Jugend hackt, Foto: Leonard Wolf)
A technical background is not even a prerequisite to commit time: “I think you should just try out Jugend hackt”, the mentor Sabine from Ulm concludes. "Previous knowledge doesn't matter at all, because everyone contributes their own great and different skills and can participate". After all, the mentors are role models for youths particularly in their diversity and with their different backgrounds.
Of course, it isn't possible for everyone to spontaneously spend a whole weekend with a group of 12 to 18 year old kids. All mentors receive extensive training before the event provided by the pedagogical team from Jugend hackt. The most important rule: the keyboard is lava! This means: an adult should never take the laptop out of the youths' hands and simply type in the solution. This only generates frustration.
The mentors instead help the participants by pointing out the right direction so that they can solve their problem independently. Communication at eye level that puts independence, teamwork and the joy in gaining knowledge in the foreground.
"I am a mentor at Jugend hackt, becauseit is very inspiring for me to see how young generations deal with socially complex topics, develop projects for these and actually try to change the world“, mentor Jelka say as she explains her commitment toJugend hackt in a short video.
The digital volunteering even works remotely if you cannot be together at a single location: all on-sit events from Jugend hackt have been canceled since March due to the corona pandemic. There are instead regular online formats. The mentors are active here as well: they hold coding workshops, talk about data algorithms in live, streaming talk shows and answer questions from the youths in a chat.Many people become mentors, because they would have liked to have such a program in their youth as well. Some people become mentors, because they experienced Jugend hackt before: more and more former participants remain in the program after their 19th birthday and work as mentors, because they want to give something back to the community and share their experiences.