Paul Elliott, City Year London, 2014-15

PaulElliott_p1My City Year was not only transitional but also transformational, for reasons I could never have imagined. Thanks to the funders and supporters who back the charity’s vision, its staff and most importantly, the volunteers who I served with, I am a new and improved version of the person I was in July 2014.

Coming from an inner city school and having had someone who helped me a lot through my education, I already understood the profound impact that a role model can have on children’s lives. Being able to help pupils – who feel distanced from teachers and parents – find their purpose or realise their skills, creates a special type of relationship that makes City Year volunteers pivotal across the world.

But what drew me to City Year UK was the added opportunity to develop my leadership skills and public speaking and I look back with happiness at the changes I’ve made due to the knowledge and experience I gained. The conversations I had with leaders in education, FTSE 100 companies and the media, not to mention global leaders, were unimaginable before the summer of 2014. A television interview to millions of viewers (as part of Sky’s campaign to give young people a voice ahead of the General Election), being mentored by Caroline Hooley, Global Executive Communications Manager at National Grid, who I will be eternally grateful to, and numerous visits to Parliament, were all incredible experiences.

However, the best opportunities often happened in school: working with pupils on science projects, helping pupils build relationships with teachers by talking about undiscovered mutual interests and leading winning football teams, including a girls’ team who had never played another school.

I did all this as part of a team.  We were from a variety of cultural backgrounds with different outlooks, united in our purpose.  Our tight bond meant we learnt from each other. We made a difference because we teamed up to run interventions and help pupils who needed extra support and, as a team, we provided each other with fresh perspectives on our future ambitions.

Serving with genuine people who were the source of so much learning and inspiration meant that my year of service was a genuinely life-changing experience.