As I sit to write this retrospective blog about my 4-year experience at Students4Students, nothing but extremely fond and positive memories spring to mind.
In 2017 I joined the University of Bristol to study English. I knew when coming to university that I wanted to volunteer for a charity, but what I didn’t know, was which one. However, when I came across an advert for Students4Students, it immediately stood out to me as something I am passionate about: educational equality for young, underprivileged students. I was fortunate enough myself to have received an excellent education which has provided me with a myriad of opportunities. In turn, I thought volunteering as part of the Students4Students committee would be a lovely way to give back. So, I applied. Did I ever think it would lead to a 4-year commitment? No. However, I’m so glad it did and I truly never looked back.
When I joined the committee as School Liaison Officer, the Bristol branch of Students4Students was fairly new and Gemma, who is now an integral part of the national committee, was leading as Chair. Gemma had almost single-handedly set up the Bristol branch; managing to recruit and place a high number of volunteers into local schools in Bristol. Gemma found and built the foundations for our strong relationships in local catchment areas. Thus, I looked up to Gemma from the moment I met her and can gladly say that I followed in her footsteps (although they were big shoes to fill!).
The opportunities I had during my time were expansive, varying from contacting and maintaining relationships with schools, attending and holding committee meetings, forming strategies, brainstorming for fundraising events and refining recruitment techniques. Above all, I learnt invaluable skills which will stick with me for life, such as writing formal grant applications. I was given many opportunities to develop my independence as a leader, with a massive focus on my negotiation techniques and creative skills (I often found myself having to think outside the box). One of my highlights as Chair was when I managed to affiliate Students4Students Bristol with the Student’s Union. The process was arduous and thorough, but that apprentice-style meeting/grilling I had with the Student’s Union it was so worth it for the benefits it ensued for the charity. I learnt so much in my time with so many rewards: I really couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
After graduating Alex, the co-founder of S4S, asked me if I would like to join the national committee. Delighted, I agreed to interview and subsequently took up the position as National Recruitment lead. Over the past year it has been so nice to stay connected with the entire committee and to also be affiliated with a charity that works as hard as Students4Students does. I’ve absolutely loved overseeing the recruitment process in all 3 branches and it is also extremely encouraging to see a lot of young and enthusiastic committee members who are similarly passionate about educational inequality.
The last year has been challenging but S4S has responded quickly pivoting to an entirely online tutoring platform. This is a testament to the collective ethos of Students4Students, where everyone feels they can contribute and problems are collectively solved.
Unfortunately, my personal circumstances have changed and I’m deeply saddened to leave the national committee for now as my career has become too busy, but I really hope I can come back in future to help drive change for the better!