Until a high-flying businessman stepped in to volunteer as her mentor, Jasmine Docherty was a surly student who was giving the proverbial two fingers to her school, its teachers and everything the establishment represented.
Now entrepreneur James Fleming, who saw something of his younger self in teen Jasmine, has tipped her not only as a business leader of the future, but as someone whose acumen could take her to the senior ranks of his own company’s dynamic management team.
Two years ago, Jasmine was a second-year pupil at St John Ogilvie High School in Hamilton. Lacking motivation and a sense of belonging within the school community, she was of the view that her teachers just didn’t get her.
Despite being disengaged and seemingly uninterested, it was clear to her teachers that Jasmine was bright. Although she was frequently the ringleader when trouble broke out during a lesson, many of her fellow students would leave class without any of the knowledge the teacher had tried to impart. Unlike them, Jasmine had soaked it all up.
Now she’s going places – and it’s not just down the corridor to be asked to explain to the deputy head why she’d again disrupted class and been rude and cheeky to her teachers.
Jasmine’s fortunes changed in 2019 when she was identified as a teenager with the potential to benefit from a match with a mentor through MCR Pathways – a Glasgow-based charity whose mentors bridge talent with opportunity and empower disadvantaged young people to unlock their potential.
Explaining why the mentoring programme was so keen to involve Jasmine, pathways coordinator, Charmaine Falconer said: “Jasmine had the ability to make it seem like she wasn’t engaging in class, but then answer all the questions at the end. She is naturally clever and can get by without trying. So, imagine what she can achieve when she does try.
“I told Jasmine we would find someone that was similar to her, who would ‘get’ her and show her there was a better way of doing things. We got to know and trust each other.”
Hoping that an introduction might persuade her to follow an alternative path, Jasmine agreed to participate.
In the process of finding a match, mentors and young people are asked a similar set of questions about their interests, their challenges, what they get from their school or work life, and what they want to take from their education or career.
“Jas was in a bit of a bad place, and was not thinking of the future. She was coming to school because her mum was telling her to,” continued Charmaine.
“What I liked about James was he was focused enough, but not to the point of berating her. He treats everyone the same way.
"He has the same tone for everyone, and I think that is really important for the kids. At this stage in high school, it is hard for a young person because they are in between being a child and a young adult. We are asking them to take responsibility, choose their career path options and where they want to go in life, but some teachers still talk to them like they’re a child.”
When introduced to mentor James at induction, Jasmine admits her mentor was not how she’d imagined.
“Charmaine told me he always wore power suits,” she said.
“I thought he’d look like a teacher. But he is just the same as you and me.”
The conversations shared by Jasmine and James – who is managing director of Lanarkshire-based leadership and development company, The Power Within Training – vary from jovial sparring over the fortunes of their rival football teams, to her flair for numbers, his ambitions for his business and family, and their dream holidays.
James has been open with her about the brushes he had with the law in his youth, which led to appearances before the Children’s Panel, on which he now sits as a member, deciding what’s best for children and young people who need his help.
“He told me all about that and how it wasn’t until fourth year that he put in the effort and got good grades,” said Jasmine, who is herself now a 16-year-old fourth year pupil.
“Hearing that gave me motivation, because I was not too far gone and was able to pull it back and change my path.”
Jasmine’s teachers – some of whom did not know that she was part of the MCR Pathways programme – soon noticed a change in her.
On one occasion, when the head teacher saw James arriving at school for his weekly, one-hour meeting with Jasmine, she went out of her way to thank him for the work he was doing with his young mentee – which had resulted in a significant shift in her attitude.
“I thought that was really nice for James,” said Charmaine.
“We are constantly telling our mentors how they are helping, but they do not see that part. Sometimes the mentor and young person will speak about school for only 15 or 20 minutes, so they [the mentor] do not get the broader picture about how they are progressing.
"I really loved that James heard that from the head teacher. She wanted him to know that what he was doing was working. He was advising Jasmine, allowing her to make the decisions, not telling her what to do.”
Before she arrives at an important decision, such as her subject choices, Jasmine always makes a point of mulling it over with James.
She now has her sights set on a Modern Apprenticeship, which combines workplace training with in-school learning, in accountancy and business.
With ambitions to start her own company, Jasmine said: “James always says I would be better not having a boss to tell me what to do. Having someone to talk to, a second opinion, really helps. It’s like having a pal to turn to.”
Although it’s the choice of the mentor and mentee whether they continue their contact when the young person moves on to further education, training or employment, Charmaine is convinced the fruitful partnership James and Jasmine have forged will live on long after she leaves school.
“It’s amazing they have got this connection,” she said.
“They were one of my very first matches and I’ve got a wee soft spot for them. It’s bitter sweet. Because Jasmine is not dropping in to see me, I know that means that she is doing well. And that is just what we want.”
James also believes he will remain in touch with Jasmine, who bears no resemblance to the young person he was introduced to two years ago.
“When I first met her, I could hardly get a word out of her,” said James, who has launched and led successful business around the globe.
“Her head was down all the time. Having a conversation with her was really tough. She had no confidence. I think she was just so disillusioned with school and regimental learning and didn’t enjoy it at all. She is a free-thinker and very ambitious. She felt that she was so different and couldn’t understand why she was getting into trouble. Everyone was against her.
“After about six months, the head was up and she was looking forward to our meetings. We helped each other to set goals. She realised I was interested in her, and I gave a damn. It mattered to me that she had a vision in life and she wanted something to focus on. She realised this is not my job, something I had to do – I was doing it because I really wanted to help.”
Through their conversations, Jasmine began to realise that she could turn her fortunes around by believing in herself and recognising she was capable of more.
“It was amazing – like watching your kid taking their first steps,” said James, 48, who insists all businesses and organisations should be giving back by devoting time to young people in the community who are struggling.
“You feel so proud and you look at them with admiration when the penny has dropped, and they get it. I absolutely love to see people believing in themselves.
“I can almost guarantee that young Jasmine is probably going to go on in life and do amazing things and potentially come and work for my company. She will go on and run her own business, or work in business development or business finance. She has all the qualities of an entrepreneur – a big vision and self-belief. She is a clever wee cookie who will go on to become a very successful businesswoman.”