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Rodney Williams, City Year London 2010-11

A team leader of one of the first City Year UK teams in London, Rodney went on to a career at National Grid, his City Year UK team sponsor.  Here is his story.

“After I graduated I didn’t have a career in mind and I didn’t feel ready for work. I was looking for something meaningful, something worthwhile. I was at a careers fair and I saw a big red banner saying: ‘Give a year. Change the world.’ It was City Year and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I always had a passion to volunteer but what appealed to me was the notion of completing a ‘year of service’, and the mission and purpose underpinning it, which felt huge.

“Being part of City Year UK right at the beginning was unnerving because we didn’t know what to expect but we were an enthusiastic group of young people in a vibrant school and we soon found that children could open up to us. We were different – a breath of fresh air and a new bridge between pupils and teachers. The school was facing some challenges at that time but we were able to be there as consistent role models and mentors throughout the academic year. We were at breakfast club, in classrooms, on the playground and started five after-school clubs.

“Before starting City Year, I was an introverted, shy person and would get anxious about presenting or speaking in public but I was encouraged to present on a regular basis. I remember doing a roundtable session with a local MP, presenting to senior leaders from corporate sponsors and doing school assemblies. A highlight was presenting at a corporate AGM, which was broadcast to its employees. My time at City Year really helped me find my voice and my confidence grew. I even got invited to some training in Boston – attended by all the team leaders across City Year in the US, South Africa and now the UK. It made me realise that I was part of something special, new, innovative and different and something that was going to make a real difference to young people’s lives in the UK.

“Through City Year UK’s leadership development programme I got to meet people who worked at National Grid – our City Year team sponsor. I saw the work they were doing up-close and benefitted from a National Grid mentor, who gave me professional advice throughout the year. I got a 3D perspective of a company I’d previously known little about and went on to apply for a job.

“The experience has had a massive impact on me. My year of service gave me a solid foundation of skills that I have built upon in my career with National Grid and I’m now able to bring my lived experience as a volunteer to my role as a City Year UK Trustee. I hope to support the charity to continue to create future leaders and deliver positive change for young people in education.”

In 2018, Rodney was named in Empower’s list of 50 Ethnic Minority Future Leaders, presented by the Financial Times and he joined the City Year UK Board in 2019.

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