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“City Year pushes you to become the best possible version of yourself”

I haphoto of Charis Gambon, volunteer mentor in West Midlandsd previously spoken to the City Year team in June 2019 at a recruitment fair at Nottingham Trent University. However, due to the fact that it was a non-paying year-long volunteer role, I ultimately decided at the time that City Year was not the opportunity for me.

I applied to City Year for the 2020-2021 programme, later than most people. I had my place confirmed on 12th June 2020 and the experience was to begin on August 24th. I applied because I had been rejected from every job or scheme I had applied for and thought I would give City Year a go; I was on Facebook and the social media page for the organisation popped up on my feed.  I filled out the form and Choven got back to me very quickly offering me an interview, then I completed the maths and English tests and scored over 80% in both and Choven offered me a place. The whole process was very quick.

I accepted the place; I was however somewhat sceptical about the scheme. I didn’t know anyone and with the pandemic I didn’t know anything really about what I would be doing. I went to BTA week unsure but looking forward to the experience. I finished BTA week knowing more than when started but still a little unsure about the experience especially because the coronavirus meant I hadn’t actually met all of the people who were to be on my team.

I started at the school which was a new experience for me a week later. I found my first day enjoyable but quite a lot as it was a new school I hadn’t been to before, new team I hadn’t met yet and new information to learn all in one day. I did enjoy the process as I enjoy learning but I felt that I had learnt a significant amount in one day, which can be difficult for someone with dyslexia.

Since then, I have enjoyed my time at Tile Cross Academy with Team Unity. I volunteer with the Year 7 age group and have been working with students within class encouraging them to take chances and to complete their work to the best of their ability. I see every time I work with my students the difference City Year Mentors make to their success rates.  Since working with my students I have seen such a positive change in them and their work. One student who hated English now enjoys it and loves telling me about the lesson when I am not there.

bookmarks created by volunteer mentorAs part of City year, I have had countless opportunities that I am incredibly thankful for. I collected books from my local community and donated them not only to my school but to four other city schools.  I am thrilled to have been able to have such a positive influence on the students’ access to literacy and their personal literacy rates – that is something I regard as one of my highest accomplishments. I have been running weekly library worksheet sessions with Year 7 students on a Thursday lunchtime and I am overjoyed with the work that has been produced by the students in these sessions on topics such as superheroes, Christmas, and remembrance.  I have also been able to engage Year 7  students in an exhibition on remembrance at the army flying museum, which is something I am immensely proud of.  All students enjoyed creating a war medal of their own design for the exhibition and we even submitted a small number of poems created by the students which can be read online. I am thankful that City Year has provided me with the opportunity to engage students in topics that improve their social awareness and skills.

Since January I have been working from home due to living with someone who needs to stay indoors. I have been creating exciting and creative resources for the students to engage with and have received such positive feedback from other mentors and staff members about my resources that tackle the subject of emotions and feelings. I enjoy creating the resources as they allow me a chance to be creative and provide a chance for me to pick the subjects and issues I would like to focus on.

Overall, I am incredibly grateful to be a part of the City Year experience and have enjoyed every opportunity so far immensely. City Year pushes you to become the best possible version of yourself – both for your benefit and the benefit of the students you work with. I would thoroughly recommend City Year to anybody who is considering it.

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