Drop a stone in the pond….

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A few years ago I had the very great joy of leading a group of young people over several years as part of a national rollout of UFA’s Lead Learner programme. They were drawn from across the country to pilot a model whereby they led extra-curricular clubs for their peers, culminating in a national learning festival which they named YoUFiestA (cleverly linking it to their name for our young people’s led YoUFA network). I’ve kept in touch with some of the original Lead Learners as they’ve left school, gone onto University and are now in their first jobs.

Part of the delight of my job is seeing how the ripples of transformation keep on going way past the present moment and the original people involved. Of course we rarely get to hear about the wider impact of our contribution but just sometimes we get a glimmer of how the stone we threw into the pool created wide ranging ripples. Here’s a couple from two of those Lead Learners who were around 14 when I first met them:

Shereen Tucker is currently “in secondary teacher training on my first placement in a wonderful girl’s school in Bath, which I am thoroughly enjoying! I am learning so much and am excited to get up and go to school every day! I love working with young people and I feel like I make a difference to people’s lives on a daily basis, which is the best job satisfaction you can get, if you ask me!

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I stopped working with the UFA in 2010 when I moved away to go to university. I studied a BSc in Physical Geography and then was lucky enough to gain a scholarship to study for a Masters degree in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems.

I followed what I thought was my dream career in environmental management. However, once I had gained a position in this sector I quickly realised that working with people, young people in particular, was the real dream job. I think being part of the UFA was a big part of making this an aspiration, in hindsight.

At this point I gained a position on NSC’s partner programme, ICS with Voluntary Service Overseas. With this I spent time working in community-based disaster management in the Philippines, with my role focussing particularly on education.

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I think the UFA played a strong role in shaping my beliefs around the importance of education and understanding how people learn and think differently. On a more personal level, I feel that being part of the UFA made me a more confident individual, which has been a huge factor in gaining the opportunities I have had throughout my educational career so far.

My plan is to finish my teacher training, gain some experience in the education sector and then move toward a career in the Non-Government sector. Ideally I would like to work for an education charity, setting up and running education projects in post-disaster and conflict zones.”

Here’s Steve Moffat (who we used to call Big Steve, naming our then Director ‘Little Steve’ – a little in joke as the latter was in fact rather tall!):

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“Getting involved with the UFA was one of the best few days of my life. I met some people that I am still in contact with today and when it was over, I was just miserable for about 3-4 days afterwards as I enjoyed it so much. Over the next few residentials and the learning festivals that we organised as a result of them, I met more and more fantastic people, picked up more skills such as people skills, diplomacy, patience, public speaking, leadership/subordination. I wouldn’t say that being with the UFA changed my aspirations or life goals, it helped me grow and refine skills that made it easier for me to achieve them. Since we last worked together, I have gone through sixth form and achieved 4 A-Levels, through University and achieved a degree in Marine Vertebrate Zoology and got myself a full time job as an estate agent. I very much treasure my experience with the UFA – it’s up there with university and my skydive as one of the best things I have ever taken part in. I’m so grateful to everyone involved in our projects for being there for us and encouraging us along our journeys.”

So I reckon I’ll keep on throwing stones into the pond and trusting that the ripples will keep on spreading far and wide!

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