“I grew up around people who struggled in school with no support”
Abul volunteered with City Year West Midlands in 2020-21. He shares his journey as part of a pilot team in an Alternative Provision school.
“I joined City Year because I saw it as an opportunity to work on my own personal development. It represented a chance to challenge myself. Secondly, I grew up around people who struggled in school with no support and I wanted to spend my placement year in an environment where I could actively contribute and help students who need it.
“During my first few weeks at City Year and in school I felt overwhelmed. The additional challenge came from being placed in an Alternative Provision Free School – while this is a smaller school setting with only 40 students they are students who are high-need and face many barriers to learning. Sometimes I would witness challenging behaviour or if there was a conflict situation I would feel out of my depth and wasn’t sure how to respond.
“However, over time I became more comfortable in the setting and more confident in my ability to do the role as I developed relationships with staff and students. To my surprise, despite my quiet nature, I was able to form meaningful and trusting connections with students. In particular, those who struggled with their own self-esteem or social and emotional needs seemed to respond to my calm nature. I found myself building positive mentoring relationships with students, coaching them on their behaviour, supporting them in lessons and encouraging them to make good decisions and trying to provide them with some life advice.
“The intimate community feel of the school and especially the support of the staff team really helped me to persevere, push through my own barriers, try new things and step up and take on new challenges and responsibilities. I started to receive praise from staff around my performance and students actively wanted to work with me which reassured me that I was making a difference.
“My team has also been an invaluable part of my City Year experience. Despite being quiet at first, over time I got to know everyone and started to open up. As I did, I saw the strengths that everyone contributed and as our team dynamic grew, we were able to use each other as a support system; building each other up during times of difficulty and championing each other to succeed. They were an integral part of my development over the year. I now understand how an effective team functions and how I contribute to that.
“My journey has been filled with ups and downs but I wouldn’t change it. As I come to the end, I have honestly come further than I felt possible. I have learnt not to put limits on myself and that I am capable of so much more than I sometimes think. I have developed as a professional, gaining skills, but mostly as a person. I am leaving this year with memories, relationships and renewed motivation for my next step. I value the experience I have had and know that the growth, development and learning I have gained will benefit me moving forward.”
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