This is the second part of a series that looks at volunteering, and the ways in which students can become more involved in social change. Next up, I had the chance to met Duncan, a final year Economics student from Kingston University, to discuss what he’s been upto with Kingston Hub!
A: What inspired you to join Kingston Hub?
D: I think it was a combination of getting vital experience, but also the feeling of wanting to give back to communities. I’ve always been passionate about helping others, so I felt that this was an opportunity. I love being able to work with a variety of different people from diverse backgrounds.
A: What project are you involved in?
D: Schools Plus is a programme that addresses inequality through mentoring and tutoring students across London. Literally anything from Psychology, Science, English, or any other subject you can think of. The programme involves weekly tutorials, and tutors are matched with local schools. Bridging the learning gap, and improving the confidence and attainment in areas of higher socio-deprivation. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to struggle with education, so the aim to address students who struggle within the academic system.
A: Why it is important for students to get involved?
D: I think especially in the programme I am running, I feel that students who tutor can have a really positive effect. The economic background can dramatically affect the impact of young people’s wellbeing, so this is a programme whereby students can have a positive influence. We tend to underestimate the value of giving back, and sometimes we overlook the bigger picture. Personally, I think the main benefits to gain from this programme are confidence, and the ability to learn practical-based skills that will prove to be beneficial to students when they graduate.
A: What stops students from volunteering? How we can get more students involved?
D: I think that travelling and commuting can deter students from being involved, and sometimes the schools aren’t always the easiest to access via public transport. So, in this sense, it can certainly seem like a substantial investment of time for limited financial rewards. Let’s not forget that on this programme is reimbursed, which is something that other projects may not be able to offer.
The best way to increase engagement? I think it depends. Maybe one way to perhaps get more students involved is perhaps to look at more localised volunteering. But having said, we do have a large number of commuter students from across London. So we could look at ways of increase the outreach by targeting these students, and find ways from them to be interacted with “student-life.” Because the danger here is that those who travel long distances can feel disengaged, and this could be a proactive way to address this issue.
A: How has been a part of Kingston Hub improved your skills? And has career progression has been enhanced?
D: Definitely! Being a part of Kingston Hub has given an amount of transferable skills. Managing a project, such as Schools Plus, has provided me with the opportunity to learn skills such as management, networking, and confidence. These days, I think the ability to coordinate teams and. My experience has given my CV a boost in terms of the roles I can apply for, and I feel more self-assured going into interviews.
A: That’s brilliant Duncan, thank you for your time!
Duncan was always keen to point the importance of developing positive relationships within disadvantaged communities. In addition, he was also highlighting the fact that a fairly large number of students commute into the university from all over London. And undoubtedly the danger is that students are missing out, because they may feel that they need to be based in Kingston to be a part of the project.
The Schools Plus programme is interesting. Because I feel that students are missing an opportunity here. The personal development market has expanded exponentially, and mentoring industry is worth. So if students envision themselves as future leaders, then certainly the ability to tutor someone else can be incredibly useful when applying for management-based positions in the future.
Rather to look at the negatives towards volunteering, I think that need to understand the value of being involved with charities. Yes, there are limited financial incentives. However, do you believe that you get the same opportunities working for a company?
Instead of thinking “what would I gain?” and consider this question:
How can someone else benefit from the time I give?