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“I realised how every day counts when you are changing the lives of students.”

Mo is a City Year Mentor who proudly served in Team Joy at Ormiston Brownhills Academy in the West Midlands, 2022-23. 

I joined City Year UK as a university placement opportunity. I didn’t have the intention to be here until the end; I honestly just thought of doing it for half the year. However, a few months into my journey, I was able to see the impact I was having on individuals I was working with in school, and see I was making a change. The City Year founding story of “be the change” now made more sense to me. I didn’t think I would make a change when I signed up, but due to the training I have been given, I was able to learn and adapt my skills towards working in a school, and embrace the experience. Throughout my City Year experience, I realised how everyday counts when you are changing the lives of students. This follows my own values in life as I have also made changes in my lifestyle and developed on a personal level. 

I have been lucky that since day one I was able to build meaningful relationships with all my pupils in the school. In the first few months of school I was able to build a good relationship with one of my focus list students before he knew that I was going to be his mentor! I work in Year 8 and 9, which are students who are between 12 and 14 years old. I was able to put the skills I learnt at City Year’s training academy and leadership development days into practice, and I quickly became more confident talking to pupils as a near-peer mentor. Currently I have two of my focus lists arguing in their lessons about who is my favourite student and who I get along with the best!

Over the year, I have been able to see the impact I have had on their ABCDs –  academics, behaviour, curriculum and social and emotional development. In the first term at school, one of my focus list students received a head of year award for improvement in behaviour and maturing since the start of the school year. He came and showed me, bursting with pride. I could also see his progress as on his first English report: at first, he was just “meeting expectations” in his class work and after the mentoring work I did with him, he is now exceeding expectations.

Building relationships with my team members is one of the best things I could have asked for. When I started at City Year, I didn’t speak to all my team mates. Overtime, we bonded quickly by tackling the challenging days of school together, which brought us closer together as a team. It turned out we were all from the same university, completing our placement years. I think the turning point was our first Social Action Day, where we decided to raise awareness of loneliness in old people homes. We completed the plan together and it made me believe that working with my team mates would allow us to achieve greater things together. In February, for our second Social Action Project, we went bigger and better. We raised money to buy books for our school library, as the library needed a big refresh and we did this by completing a sponsored walk of over 5 miles. We raised a whopping £515 and donated over 100 books!

One of my biggest areas of growth I have wanted to focus on is how best to give and receive feedback and I have been able to work on this continually throughout my year of service. I have had support from my Impact Officer who has organised 1-to-1 sessions to help me and now I have slowly become more confident with how to offer and build on feedback. Another area of growth is that I am now more confident tackling activities that I haven’t tried before and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. Over time, this has made me a better leader and I am proud to see the growth in myself.

Through my journey, I have come to understand my own community more, but I also know what it is like to be part of a new community. When I started at school, I realised quickly how different the Brownhills community was to my own. The majority of students at the school are white British, and I wasn’t sure how I would fit in. Now I actually know I am a valued part of the school community – despite cultural and ethnic differences. The staff and students have accepted me and look up to me as a role a model – a role I take seriously and carry out with enormous pride.

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