Being a young person can be difficult at the best of times; hormones are running rampant, the need for independence is bumping up against reliance on others, and identity is nothing more than a series of terrifying question marks. Add into the mix incarceration, family breakdown, homelessness, abuse, poverty, or any number of disaffecting factors, and it’s hardly surprising — albeit devastating — that so many youths end up trapped in a cycle of disadvantage. Stopping this cycle is the sworn mission of Mark Watt, CEO of Whitelion, a charity that fosters positive relationships and creates community connections for at-risk youth.

Empowered and inspired by the mentor who helped him navigate a tumultuous period in his own life, Mark co-founded Whitelion in 1999.

In the years since, he has never forgotten the impact that this role model had on his life. “There was a guy called Phil who helped me out when I was a teenager,” reflects Mark. “He helped me to develop some life goals and supported me through numerous difficult family situations. He also tutored me and helped me through school; without him, I don’t think I would have passed my VCE.

“I went on to university thanks to his tutoring and mentoring.” Mark pauses before adding, “He was very significant to me. He was a constant through those difficult years. So I understand the power of someone important coming into your world; it’s life changing. And I want to give that same opportunity to as many young people as possible.

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