Kelly is one of MTL’s existing volunteers and has delivered a selection of modules of our ACE for Schools programme, to a number of different schools across London. This is her story… ‘For many years I had wanted to branch out into working with teens. I did a short voluntary stint when I was a teen myself but when you are young and inexperienced it was easy to feel like a fraud within the social care sector. My later work in the prison system motivated me to decide I would have do it in the nearer future. There are too many young men caught up in crime and drugs, they often had little aspiration on what their lives could have been or be. When travelling in Guatemala I started with some voluntary work with children in a home, which was wonderful and inspiring, so on returning to London in May last year I promised myself I would volunteer with youth alongside building up my business. Reading one of the commuter papers one day I saw the advert for Making The Leap. They were looking for professionals to work in schools, and I knew straight away it was meant to be. It was the perfect opportunity to work with young people, and refresh and make use of my previous skills gained from facilitation work. Their tag line being “No young person left behind” made it seem an appropriate project. I was quickly scheduled in for an assessment day where we were given an overview of the programme.
Making The Leap are a social mobility charity working with under 25’s, which basically means bridging the gap of opportunities available to people from different social backgrounds. Their schools programme aims to deliver skills to help young people prepare for the world of work and “the course exposes them to skills, behaviours and attitudes needed to succeed”. For the assessment we worked in teams to plan and deliver a session on a certain subject. It was slightly awkward speaking in front of a group of strangers, but I had done similar before and knew at least the ground was not going to swallow me up. Everyone had a different motive for being there. Some wanted to be teachers, were retired professionals or in between jobs. My own was simply to work with young people, and being self-employed meant that I had some flexibility and time to work with. I was surprised to be contacted the following day by the trainer and asked if I would like to return the next week for module training! Module training was a half day affair for just the first module. There are ten modules in the programme with the delivery lasting an hour.
So over the weeks we would be coming in to train in how to deliver each module, with the aim of delivering the school session the same week, all of course subject to us being available for them. It turned out they were starting a new school that week in Wembley. So without much hesitation I said yes! There were five of us training the first module and this then varied over the weeks, meeting other volunteers over the time. We were shown how the session is delivered, taking part as students. We had fun trying to be a difficult participant and giving the facilitator some kind of challenge. It helped us to think about how we might deal with that situation, and received helpful advice from Marlene our trainer. We all learnt from each other by taking turns delivering ourselves. The person who went first received the praise for being brave, and gave the rest of us something to learn from. And then it was usually easier for the last person to deliver it well. The training is without a doubt very supportive, and the sessions hold valuable information and tools for the young participants, which makes the programme very exciting to work with. Going into the school for the first time was nerve wracking.
How would the students respond? Would I get my words out and my points across, or be a stuttering wreck? It was daunting because we all know what is what like when we were at school, and remember the certain teachers that would get a hard time! Our school co-ordinator who met and organised our being there every week was super supportive and appreciative of the team, she made us feel that we were doing such an important job with them. Getting the attention of my class was very difficult, it felt impossible to have their full attention all at once. And I learned quickly that this could not be expected, and simply as the weeks went by I played with various ways to manage it, from being completely silent to informing them they would not be able to leave on time. And note that a teacher is in the room the whole time so can also step in to help out as needed. A class full of 14 year olds are so different from each other. You can spot the shy and confident types and those that like to fool around. Many were not shy with their peers, but that all changed when they were asked for contributions, and a sea of blank faces and silence filled the room! But it was so satisfying seeing their obvious progression over the two plus months, as they became more forward and willing. Sessions like the telephone and interview techniques were a lot of fun and really challenged them to put their learning into action, and be brave! Students filled in evaluation forms at the end of each session and it was reassuring that these were almost all ‘good’. They were getting something out of it, whether they had ‘fun’ or found it useful.
At the end of the programme I got the feeling the students were wanting more, as I was. The programme content is well structured and covers very important and basic tools that will help young people get a head start on their journeys into the world of work experience and further education. I certainly did not have this when I was leaving school, and it would have been so helpful. Even now, the programme served as a gentle refresher of the whole job application and interview process. For myself, the programme has given me exactly what I was looking for, a platform to gain work experience with young people, help me gain and improve my facilitation skills and confidence in speaking. I am on my second and third schools right now, and have a real opportunity to inspire our youth of today, having fun at the same time. I would do this for free any day!’
This testimonial was originally posted on Kelly’s blog (www.wholeandheartey.com) and has been reproduced with her permission. Interested in finding out more about volunteering with MTL?
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