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Amara Lawrence, City Year Birmingham, 2013-14

Volunteer mentor in uniform

I was keen to use my gap year productively and figure out what I wanted to study. I believe City Year better prepared me for university, and I’m now studying English and Philosophy at Nottingham Trent.

I was one of four corps members assigned to the year group that our school said was the most challenging, so I braced myself at the start of the year. However, once we got to know the students I saw a lot of progress, and I was very proud of them. One of my mentees went from being noted as one of the ‘top 10’ in negative behaviour to becoming the only student in the year to reach a ‘silver award’ for praise points. Children were genuinely happy to work with us and have us around, and would ask us to come to certain lessons or help with projects. At parents’ evenings they came and introduced us to their parents even if they weren’t on our focus list.

Another highlight was my team. I’m not a very sociable person and I never expected to get on so well with everyone, but I’m really glad I got to know them and that we still keep in touch now. Being at City Year made me more self-aware. There are a lot of qualities I took for granted because they were natural to me and I didn’t recognise them as strengths. Spending a year in a diverse environment also made me more sociable and it encouraged me to put myself up for opportunities that I wouldn’t have before. Working with my mentor also made me look out for new opportunities.

Now I feel I’m more tolerant, more sociable, and I’m also a lot happier generally than I would have been had I gone straight into university after college.

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