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Mariyah’s story

Back to Impact report 2021-2022

Problem child


She talks too much

Gifted and talented

Nothing bothers her

You should be wary of her

“These were all labels I was given as a child.

“From a young age I enjoyed learning and school. I was able, confident and outspoken.  At high school I was still the same student but was quickly marked out.  I became the one who’s smart but talks too much and always accused of bad behaviour. I felt I had to constantly defend myself against these incorrect labels, but was just seen as being argumentative.

“I had detentions and suspensions, and the labels stuck. I’d miss days, wag lessons or was kept in exclusion, which began to impact my grades. So I stopped defending myself, stopped telling everyone that they were wrong about my labels. I shut down.


“By year 8, my behaviour had gotten worse but my school put me on a programme with Catch 22.  For the first few months, I thought it was ridiculous and used it as an excuse to come out of lessons.

She needs ‘extra’ help
Problem child

“Gradually, I started to realise these people were on my side and wanted to hear what I was saying. I began to open up and to explain why I didn’t want to be in school.

She’s trying 
She’s working hard
She’s still difficult, though

“Through Catch 22’s support and guidance, I learnt how to communicate my emotions rather than act out or become argumentative.  By the middle of Year 10, I wanted to do better and catch up but as much as I felt I had changed, those negative labels still stuck. In order to cope, I became emotionally detached and self-reliant. I didn’t tell people how I really felt or what I was dealing with.

“I was supported by my school pastoral staff and Miss Allen, who was my biggest support through a really difficult time but I still struggled to stay focused on my education.  I didn’t do as well as I had hoped in my exams but Miss Allen reminded me of what I was capable of and that I could do anything I wanted.

She’s turning her life around

“Lockdown was a big turning point in my life. I took the time to think about all the things I’d been through and how I had come out the other end.

“I had no idea what my next steps were but knew I definitely didn’t want to go to university. I began researching roles in schools to support young people emotionally and mentally. I remembered how important Miss Allen and Catch 22 were to me and how not everyone would be as lucky.

She’s found a purpose

“I discovered City Year UK. I felt it was an amazing programme which would be a brilliant place to get experience, develop professionally and still help young people.  And so I applied, nervous but excited to see what would come next.

She’s pushing herself

“My journey at City Year started off with Training Academy where I met a bunch of people who were nothing like anyone I knew and just seemed to be in such a steady situation compared to me. I felt intimidated and uncomfortable and felt like maybe I wasn’t ready for such a huge step.

“I was also very concerned to find out I’d be volunteering in a primary school. Little kids terrified me and I was worried I would intimidate them. At the time I didn’t realise this was because of those same labels coming back again.

“Whilst dealing with an overwhelming range of emotions, on day two I was placed in a class we were told was ‘the naughty class’ – the one no one wants. More labels.  One of the students, Callum,* has SEN and ADHD. My teammates warned me that when they’d tried to help him, he hadn’t even acknowledged they were there. When it was my turn, the teacher explained that he can have serious meltdowns and to let her know as soon as I needed her support.

“Alarm bells were ringing. I sat beside Callum and I tried to get him to give me some clue that he could even see me but got absolutely nothing.  At break time, I shared with my team that I had no idea what I was doing, that Callum absolutely HATES me and there was no way he would ever listen to me. I was dreading going back to being ignored, so I told myself there was no way I could allow that to happen.

She’s making a difference

“With this new positive attitude, I returned to class and welcomed the children back in, really emphasising the positive greetings we had been taught in training.  Even though Callum completely ignored me and even though I was the least outwardly positive, smiley person ever, I made sure I stayed smiling and just kept going on and on and on…

“He continued playing with his toys so I got out a similar toy and asked him if he wanted to have a race, then do some work.  He replied, with actual words and not a grunt, he actually looked at me and said, ‘yes’.

“After lunch he was coming to speak to me, coming to ask if we could play more once we had worked.  I was exhausted but overjoyed. Even though I had stepped out of my comfort zone, it made the biggest difference to both of us.  My pride at the progress was unmatched, so I chose Callum’s class to volunteer with for the year. I knew that being in that class would prepare me for the work I want to pursue with young people and help me develop personally with stuff I struggle with like patience and positivity.

“Volunteering with some of the most difficult children in the school has been testing and draining, yet more days than not, I can look back and say, ‘I can’t believe I did that’ or ‘we made some progress’ or ‘if I wasn’t there that would have gone very differently.’ I can’t believe that I dreaded meeting Callum;  the ‘problem child’, the ‘difficult one’, who has helped me develop into a better person and just really changed my outlook on what I can do to make a difference.

“Now, I can look back and say I had Miss Allen and now I’m Miss Mariyah. The bad labels we put on people can stick – but so can the good ones.”

I am Miss Mariyah


She cares

She’s gifted and talented 


She still talks too much 

Unfairness bothers her 

And you should be wary of her!


*Pupil’s name has been changed


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