Christopher Haroun, City Year London

“I’m from South-West London, but I’ve lived the majority of my life around Hampstead (North-West London). In fact, I myself went to William Ellis, so it’s great to be serving in the school that I went to for five years.  William Ellis is an all boys secondary school. Overall I would say that I found school rather enjoyable, and have friends who I still talk to till this day.

“City Year UK didn’t arrive at the school until 2011, so I didn’t experience City Year as a pupil.  During my time at William Ellis the behaviour of boys in school was dreadful. Now it’s a different story, and our team works hard to put behaviour interventions in place.

“In hindsight, I would really have benefited from having City Year in school when I was a pupil because the additional support would have helped me a lot. Academically I was the student that mainly coasted along in school. I was never really pushed further to excel. Nevertheless I gained several GCSEs, and progressed into sixth form.

“It was my school experience – the gap in support – that made me want to join City Year.

“Before I joined City Year, I graduated with a degree in Business Management. I found out about City Year through various graduate websites. The motivation to apply came from my interest in working with young people. I’ve always cared about helping children to achieve so I wanted to do that within a school environment.

“Throughout the week at City Year we, as a team, help to provide academic and social support to numerous pupils. However, there is one particular boy who is in need of assistance. The first time I interacted with him was in a maths classroom, it was easy to identify that he failed to grasp the concept of basic multiplication, and things that the average child would learn during primary school.

“At first he was reluctant to learn, and completely ignored everything I said. The same thing continued to occur for the next few lessons, but I was determined to build a relationship with him. As I used to be a William Ellis pupil, I was able to talk to him about the school and what things were like back then. After that he began to be more engaged, and let me help him solve a maths question he was working on in class. I broke it down into very simple steps that he could understand. By the end of the lesson he understood the question, and seemed really happy. He even said “goodbye Mr. Haroun” at the end of the lesson. I was in absolute shock, but delighted at the same time.  Now he greets me every time he sees me with a beaming smile, and we’re able to work effectively together in the classroom. There are certain areas he still needs to work on, but we’ve made a steady start to a long journey and I love seeing him improve.

“These are just some of things which make volunteering worthwhile. Kids see us as role models, which is phenomenal in my opinion. The fact that the boys look up to me is great, and I’m always available to help them during school hours. That has to be the most satisfying aspect of being a volunteer. Furthermore, the fact that I’m experiencing the school environment with such a wonderful team is brilliant. If we ever need any advice, or help with a pupil, we are present to help each other out.

“City Year has significantly influenced my future plans. From volunteering in a school, I have decided that I want to become an academic coach or a learning mentor. There’s always been a slight interest with helping young children, but being a part of City Year has further enhanced my passion and belief about my chosen career path. Additionally I’m still interested in working within the business environment, because of my degree in Business Management.

“My City Year experience has taught me to be resilient, and to never give up.  It has helped me to develop my interpersonal skills, and the confidence and courage to speak in front of a room full of people – which I did when I delivered this very testimonial.”