Five years on, Ama reflects on the lasting impact that having City Year in her school has had on her
“I was in Year 11 when City Year came to my school in Hackney. We were told, ‘There will be these people in red jackets, they’re City Year and they’re here to help you.’ The people they were assigned to were those in lower sets or who had difficulties with learning. I knew about certain people’s situations and how they might deal with things in class, so seeing City Year and how they helped individuals in my year group – that was really good. But, I also thought, ‘Why are you actually here? You’re not here to help me. I need help too!’ When you’re in school, everyone thinks that it’s not great. Everyone is, ‘I hate this school.’ So why go back when you’ve left? But when I went and actually spoke to them, I saw the need. I was one of those students who never spoke to teachers. It made sense to have City Year because it closed that gap – they were a bridge.
“I became quite close to two of the City Years. Even though I wasn’t given a specific City Year as a mentor, I just made them my own mentors! One was Mr Lutu. I would go to him for anything, any help and I would go to Miss Augustin, just to talk about life or if I had issues with maths! And there was another City Year, Miss Sweeting. She had got an A* in GCSE music so was helping all the GCSE students with our compositions. It was a music teacher’s job to stay behind after school and help but it wasn’t in a City Year’s contract. The fact that Miss Sweeting would be there until 7pm, with all of us, and obviously she wasn’t being paid – this was voluntary – it showed how much she really cared about this role. She wasn’t just doing it to get experience. She was doing it because she wanted to help others.
“Every day, after I’d finished my lunch, I’d go and speak to them. I had a good time with them and I was really happy that they could help me with my GCSEs. I wasn’t doing well at that point and with them coming in and helping us all, it was a really good thing for my year group.
“The City Years said you need to enjoy secondary school, which is true. You’re never going to have that time again. They definitely helped me change my perspective on enjoying school a bit more and speaking to people as well. They told me that confidence isn’t something that anyone necessarily has, you just have to act like it. Ever since then, I’ve followed that advice. Even now, you may think I sound really confident but I’m very shy. I don’t like public speaking but, I need to remember that there are certain opportunities that don’t come by a lot and if I’m always going to be afraid, I’m just never going to have the chance to experience them. If I’m standing in front of a room of 1,000 people and my hands are shaking, I’ll let my hands shake because I know that this is the only time I’ll get such an opportunity!
“City Years help you find out who you are and put you on your path. I would really like to do City Year myself, before I go onto full time work. I’d especially like to volunteer in a school in Hackney because it’s very close to home.”
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