City Year Testimonial

I am Nasima Akter and I proudly serve on Team Imagination at Ormiston Forge Academy in West Midlands.

A 20 year old undergraduate, psychology placement student, from the area of Birmingham. I attended Holly Lodge High School where I also completed my A-Levels, at which point I acquired a huge passion for teaching and learning, especially for the social science subjects. To the extent that, I would tutor my fellow peers in my sixth form – I delivered lessons to my psychology class and, produced and marked past papers by my peers, under the supervision of the teacher. This furthered my interest in pursuing a Psychology degree at Aston University when I came across City Year whilst searching for placements during my second year. City Year was the only organisation that appealed to me during this process, as I loved every aspect of it, and I eagerly wanted to be a part of this. My fear during this point was that if I do not get this position, I have nothing to fall back on (I only applied for this one placement!) because this was what I excitedly wanted to do; it ticked all the boxes of what I was looking for in a placement and what I intend to go into in the future. After I graduate, I aim at completing a teaching degree for higher education and teaching young adults. I believe City Year has provided me with the right skills and mindset, as I have gained an immense amount of unforgettable experience during my placement, that will only be of support in the future.

Being at school every day brings new experiences and memories that I am certain I can take and keep forever – whether it’s a nice comment a student made, or events established by myself and the team and the message it leaves behind – our legacy.

During my time at school, I had the chance to attend trips with the students in different years and that helped them understand my role and become familiar with a new face around the school. My team and I, organised a charity drive on behalf of the school, which was a success, to the point that the local community acknowledged this and contributed with passion and gratitude. We also organised a bake sale that raised £150+ in one day! One student brought in 100 cupcakes – surely that’s something to remember and be proud of!
Working here gave us the opportunity to do a lot to help the students and the school, with exciting ideas every other day: designing and creating murals, organising clubs.

However, challenging situations is something nobody wants to experience, it is a thing we need to learn to overcome as individuals and a recurring challenge I faced was getting across any point or message to the students. The reason why this was hard for me was because being such a short person around almost every student who is taller than me, it was scary approaching taller and older year group students (even teachers sometimes!). However, with time, I built a relationship with many diverse individuals and a problem I once had that was always a bother, soon disappeared.

This led to many successes I became a part of and a success which has always assured me that, yes, I can do this. I can make a difference, was regarding a student I mentor – one with very poor attendance. By working with her on a one-to-one basis, I addressed this issue and helped improve her attendance rate. From the experience of shadowing and working alongside the pastoral team at the school who deal with attendance daily, I learnt how to appropriately provide regular interventions making her aware of how this negatively impacts her curriculum. She was understanding of this and made a promise to me “I’ll keep a promise to you Miss Akter, that I’ll come to school every day and I don’t break my promises”, which till this day she has kept. As her City Year mentor, I am proud of the positive changes she has made and the amazing impact it has had on her behaviour and curriculum, and this will help shape her attendance and behaviour during her GCSE’s.
As a volunteer mentor at City Year, it brings its good and bad moments, but in my case, a lot of good moments has outweighed any bad ones, which I am grateful for! Being in contact with students, most likely the same ones every day, means they have the chance to get used to working with me and so when it comes to a point when I am not there, they ask. They ask again and again for me to attend their lessons, they want me to only work with them, they place trust in me and they become happy upon seeing me anywhere during the school day. I love the bond I have created with the students and will surely be one of the most remarkable things I will miss when I leave. Many students were inspired by me and this motivated me to not let them down, so I always thrived for the best so they too can succeed, with and without me.

During the year, I had the opportunity to attend networking events with City Year business partners such as The Challenge and NCS. As well as this, I had the chance to present at an impact breakfast, to a room crammed with 40+ business investors, some who know and others who didn’t know anything about City Year and the purpose. During this breakfast, I spoke about the school I am based at, and the impact we have had in the school so far, mainly the impact on attendance. This was an amazing experience and helped with my presentation skills and speaking at a balanced pace. Finally, another event I had the privilege to be part of, included the City Year dinner which involves an evening with investors and young people who are keen to find out more about City Year and become a part of this grow.

Although City Year is about helping students from different backgrounds, it is also for our own development and I can proudly say I have learnt through experience how to lead especially, and effectively. Anyone can lead, but it means nothing if there is no confidence in yourself but doubt, and this is what I overcame – I believed in myself, and had passion every time I spoke. This was shown through leading an extra-curricular sports club for the students as well as planning and delivering morning sessions to a group of students in year nine. From the training we receive every Friday, it helped me placed down the theory of what I learnt to reality during school and have always proved to be effective. Especially, because I am terrible in Maths, that quite often I would inform others I’m more likely to hinder a person’s progress than aid it! But, after receiving training on Maths and how to deal with situations, allowed me to observe what to do next and how to tackle this, from which I gained transferable skills on adapting and suitability.

Overall, I have come a long way battling through struggles I have faced, whilst gaining experience and new skills at the same time, as well as with my team members, with whom I’ve created relationships with that will not cease to exist after we have finished our year of service. Working in a school that’s based in a small community, made us all, in fact, become part of a close-knit community; where everyone knows each other and now about City Year and the bigger picture of why we are there. This has provided me with a sense of purpose; I know I am always welcome back here, and I know what I wish to do, which is to help young adults become integrated into society and have a sense of purpose and value. Being in a school that entails cultures and backgrounds different to what I have grown up around, furthered my knowledge and understanding of other cultures and perspectives. As well as this, I have broadened the mind of many students who are ambitious to learn. They were keen to learn about fasting in the month of Ramadan and some were inspired to experiment and try fasting for a day. This goes to show how eager they are to learn about different religions and traditions and accept individuals wholeheartedly.

City Year has motivated me to get involved in work like this; volunteering in other organisations etc. and quite specifically, it has inspired me to volunteer with ex-offenders on a mentoring programme.

If I can make a change in one person’s life, that is one more person who may decide to bring a positive change to someone else.

 

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