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“Being a City Year Mentor has helped me to become a better version of me.”

Marina is a City Year Mentor, serving on Team Power in London, 2022-2023. 

City Year changed me radically for the better. In less than a year, it helped me to develop various skills and turn my weaknesses into strengths. On the very first day of our training one of the members of staff gave us a piece of advice which I kept in mind throughout my year of service: “Take advantage of every opportunity this year and try to make the most of it”.

And so I did.

My biggest weakness has always been my self-confidence. The fact that I was in a professional environment for the first time, where my native language was not spoken, made things even more difficult for me, so improving my self-confidence became my number one priority.

City Year encouraged me to push myself out of my comfort zone countless times. I started sharing joys, ripples, and appreciations during first and final circles to get more comfortable with talking to other City Year Mentors, and I tried to be more active in group activities, even if I didn’t really want to. This helped me to develop my communication skills and share my opinions without fear.

However, the main highlight for me was my Red Talk. My two Red Talks actually! City Year gave us the chance to plan a speech on any topic that we would like to talk about. We would then deliver the talk in front of all the other City Year Mentors. It was the first time I had to stand alone in front of such a large number of people and make a speech. Public speaking was another one of my weaknesses so I was not feeling ready to do that.

Despite this, my Impact Officer gave me the appropriate support I needed to cope with it. She helped me pick my topic, as well as offering me the opportunity to practice in front of her. I wanted my speech to be light-hearted, but also slightly personal. So, I decided to talk about one of my fears, which is… dogs. Moments before my Red Talk I was really panicking and I didn’t want to go on stage. However, after I stood there, faced everyone and started talking, it stopped being that scary. I started to enjoy it. In fact, I felt so proud of myself afterwards that when they announced that we could do a second Red Talk, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.

The second time, I decided to give a more serious tone to my speech. “Why do we want to become better people?” was the chosen topic. The end of the academic year was close and through that speech I wanted to share with all the City Year team the reason I decided to commit to a year of service as a student mentor, and the range of emotions I have felt throughout this journey. Right before my speech, I realised that I wasn’t panicking like before, and that I finally had confidence in myself.

These two experiences helped me feel more comfortable when speaking in a group, and the thought of getting up to speak in front of an audience no longer scares me.

City Year has been such a rewarding experience and, apart from my personal growth, I’ve also been able to have a significant impact on my students. I was placed in a primary school where I had the chance to work with Year 2 students. I planned daily 1-on-1 sessions with my focus-list pupils, which were tailored depending on their needs, and I also provided in-class support to both pupils and teachers. Watching students develop throughout the year thanks to all the (challenging) work is one of my biggest successes, and seeing them improve in Maths or English lessons were some of the best moments of the school days.

Being a City Year Mentor has helped me to become a better version of me, but what makes me even happier is knowing that I have helped those students to become a better version of themselves too.

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