Shevina Shaw, City Year Birmingham ShevinaShaw

Before going to university I wanted to take year out to help disadvantaged children like me to also get into university.

I was born in Jamaica and spent my first three years living in a very deprived area in the heart of Kingston. I then moved to the UK and grew up in Ladywood, Lozells and Handsworth – three places often associated with gangs, crime and poverty. In my community I found that education wasn’t emphasised as being important. Children in my schools felt like they couldn’t achieve and so they didn’t try and just gave up.

My parents had me young and with no qualifications, so I grew up seeing them struggle. They worked so hard to make sure I had what I needed. I was lucky to have a supportive family who want the best for me and so pushed me. That motivated me. I want to help them now and I want to be able to provide comfortably for my children. So, I worked hard and stayed focused. I am not a sheep, I didn’t want to follow negative peer influences in my life and so I did my own thing.

In primary school I also had a teacher who saw that I was bright and who gave me extra work, made a relationship with my mom outside of school and referred me to extra-curricular activities to keep me on track. Then I surprised myself when in year 9 my first part of a GCSE result was an A and I realised I need to get my head down and I can make my visions a reality. I got a place to study psychology at the University of Birmingham and truly believe that all children can achieve regardless of their background.

My time at City Year Birmingham so far has helped me to develop professional skills which I will need in the future. I am constantly being pushed outside of my comfort zone, which is helping me to build up my self-confidence. At school, I provide in class support to year 4’s. I make sure I give a lot of attention to my focus-list children to try and push them. I run morning and after school activities such as cheerleading club, homework club and morning greeting. At lunchtime I am on the playground to be a friendly face to the kids. It is a space where we can chat and bond outside of the classroom. The children want someone to listen to them and hear their stories. The children at my school remind me of myself and other children that I grew up around; some of them are shy, others angry and disruptive, some get distracted easily, but they are all smart and just need positive support. I am here for those children to let them know they can achieve.

My joys so far have been helping the kids and seeing small changes – I know my presence in the classroom does provide help which is needed. You can see some children are reluctant to ask for help, and that is why City Year are there. When the students complete a task or a piece of work which they had previously struggled with, they are so happy and proud. It is great to see and be a part of. Everyone has the potential to be or do something great in life if they work hard and believe they can achieve their dreams.