Rodney Williams, City Year London, 2010-11

Rodney-williamsI was born and brought up in south-east London and graduated from UCL with a degree in Chemistry with Mathematics in 2010.  I joined City Year in London because I wanted to make a real difference to my community and to be a positive young role model for children who didn’t have the support that I did at school.

From a young age, I always had a passion to volunteer, but I think what appealed to me about City Year was this notion of completing a ‘year of service’, and the sense of mission and purpose underpinning it, which felt huge.  I can honestly say that completing my year of service as a mentor and role model at Whitmore Primary School in east London was life changing, both personally and professionally.

Firstly, the opportunity to go into a primary school every day and be given the responsibility of mentoring pupils and mixing with different people helped me mature quickly, become mentally stronger and gave me a whole host of personal skills such as organisation, public speaking and leadership. I can’t say I really had the chance to develop these skills at university.

Secondly, City Year gave me networking opportunities and professional links to a number of renowned companies through its leadership development programme, which ran every Friday and consisted of workshops and events designed to help corps members find a job after City Year.

Through the leadership programme I got to meet people who worked at National Grid – our City Year team sponsor – saw the work they were doing up-close and benefited 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 I was excited to hear about the breadth of roles and opportunities on offer which might be relevant to me.  My mentor supported my job application and after an amazing 12 months as a team leader with City Year London, I’ve now started my professional career with National Grid.

I’ve spent the last four years working in the Capital Delivery – Cable Tunnels Department as a Project Engineer responsible for the delivery of works at one of the construction sites that forms part of the London Power Tunnels project. I assist with ensuring that works run safely, to time and to cost. I also help out with community involvement events, such as presenting at engineering events and hosting sessions at the Energy Education Centre in Willesden Junction.

Completing my year of service was hard but hugely rewarding looking back on it. I wouldn’t be where I am today without City Year. I would urge every young person who is idealistic and concerned about real social change to think about joining the movement.