IU Volunteers' Week: Joshua's story

Joshua, IntoUniversity Student Associate and Mentor at IntoUniversity East Ham

I chose to mentor at IntoUniversity as they provided me with great support and information when I was applying to university, while also granting me the opportunity to intern at BlackRock.

As a volunteer, I not only support my Mentee academically with things such as homework but also with his interpersonal skills. 

I’m getting to know his strengths, weaknesses and goals and we have both set targets to help us improve and achieve our goals. 

Recently we’ve got into baking which is something I never expected. The experience of mentoring has been very worthwhile and gratifying.

The best thing about volunteering? I hate to say it but it’s the baking! Ha-ha, no - I’m joking. The best thing about volunteering is that I get to make a difference in another person’s life, especially through adolescence, which can be a confusing time.

Volunteering has helped me to think a lot more creatively, as I must find ways to continue to engage and motivate my Mentee. I’ve recently got into watching baking videos on YouTube because of it!

I think I have helped to improve my Mentee’s confidence (and hopefully his baking skills too!) 

I would definitely recommend volunteering to others. It helps to improve not just the Mentee but also the Mentor. Your communication skills will improve and it’s nice downtime getting yourself away from the rigours of university and the more we give, the happier we feel.

Joshua, IntoUniversity volunteer. 

If you'd like to find out more about mentoring a young person, visit the volunteering pages on the IntoUniversity website here

IU Volunteers' Week: Andy's story

Andy Birkett, Business in FOCUS volunteer, IntoUniversity Leeds

Business in FOCUS Days are one-day volunteering opportunities for a team of Corporate volunteers. Organisations host a group of students for the day and support them in completing a business simulation activity that tests their teamwork, organisation, communication and leadership skills. 

Andy has taken part in two Business in FOCUS Days with our Leeds centres. We asked him why he volunteers with IntoUniversity - and what his experience has been like so far. 

My attention was grabbed by the opportunity to help young people, particularly those from difficult backgrounds or with English as a second language, to realise their potential. I also felt that the business angle meant that I would be able to draw on my day-to-day experience at work, and share a little about the world of work with the participants.

On one occasion I worked with a team of around 10 young people to help them prepare a bid to host the fictional Global Games. I explained a little about the different roles the children would take on, such as Marketing, Finance or Managing Director, helped with the different bits of paperwork they had to complete, and coached them in how to handle face-to-face “business meetings”. 

I’ve also played the part of one of the organising committees, assessing the written work and presentations put forward by the team, and displaying a few acting skills during “visits” to the host cities and interviews with the young people.

I always enjoy seeing the enthusiasm, good humour and energy which the children inject into the task. I find it refreshing and reassuring to see them throw themselves into a challenge like this. It’s great to be able to help them identify skills and qualities they perhaps never knew they had.

Volunteering with the Business in FOCUS programme has given me the chance to understand some of the challenges faced by both young people in our local communities, and those supporting them in their education. Working with groups of people I don't usually work with on a daily basis has helped my relationship-building skills, and compiling and delivering constructive, positive feedback is another skill it was useful to practice, and which can applied in the workplace.

I think the students will have benefited from working with adults other than teachers – it’s a totally different relationship and dynamic. I also like to think that I’ve been able to give out some encouraging feedback, and perhaps helped the young people focus their minds on skills they may wish to develop, or careers they might want to pursue.

I would wholeheartedly recommend volunteering with IntoUniversity. The people are really friendly and helpful, making the days a pleasure to be involved with. You’ll get the opportunity to work on communicating with and relating to young people, which may well not be part of your usual day-to-day work. 

It’s great for the children themselves to get out of the classroom and meet some new adults, and you might be surprised by the attitudes and enthusiasm on show!

Andy Birkett, IntoUniversity volunteer

If you'd like to find out more about volunteering with IntoUniversity, please visit our website here

IU Volunteers' Week: Emily's story

University of Southampton student
Emily Beven volunteers as a Secondary Academic Support volunteer at our Southampton West centre. 
She has supported the centre once a week for the past year. We asked Emily what she's gained from volunteering with our young people.

I always had a good time at school and I enjoy learning things, so I wanted to help others enjoy their education and to get something out of their studies. I like that IntoUniversity helps to show students that are perhaps less confident in their abilities that they can go to university or do whatever they want in the future. I think it’s a very encouraging and positive organisation.

As a volunteer I help students with their homework: this sometimes involves encouraging them as they work through it themselves, checking their work, or helping them understand the task and the topic they are studying. Also, as a languages student I can help them learn vocab with games or fun activities.

The best thing about volunteering is when you see a student that was previously struggling really engage with their work, when you’ve explained something to them in a way that suddenly makes it a lot clearer for them and they see that they can actually do the work that seemed impossible before.

Volunteering has made a difference in my life - I look forward to it every week and I think it has made me more patient and understanding but also more confident because I now know what I am capable of. 

I hope I’ve helped students see that learning and studying doesn’t have to be boring and difficult and that there are different ways of learning things. I also hope that I’ve helped build their confidence and shown them that they can improve their work if they work hard. 

I would recommend volunteering at IntoUniversity because it is a fun and rewarding role. I’ve learnt new things through helping the students as well as consolidating my own knowledge.

It's a great opportunity to help others and to make a difference.

By Emily Beven

If you've been inspired by Emily's story, visit our website to find out about our volunteering opportunities.

IntoUniversity Volunteers' Week: Eve's story

"Mentoring has possibly been one of the most enriching aspects of my time at university"

Eve Jaya-Wickrema is a student at the University of Oxford and has been volunteering as a mentor at our Oxford South-East centre since October 2015.
We asked Eve about how she became involved with
IntoUniversity - and what she's gained from her time as a volunteer.  

I really liked that IntoUniversity was a separate institution from the University, to give me a chance to get out of the Oxford ‘bubble’. As a nation-wide charity, I also felt that my volunteering would be structured and reliable as I have previously done ‘casual’ volunteering which is undoubtedly as worthwhile but not as well-organised.

Despite the fact that IntoUniversity is a national charity, during the training session I found the IU staff to be so lovely and welcoming. They were really attuned to what I wanted to get out of the programme and eager to match me with someone I was similar to – they were very very successful in this!

The mentoring programme was also really appealing, as I felt it would give me a chance to really get to know one person and help on more than just an academic front. The ‘social’ and ‘future’ aspects of mentoring are crucial to helping my mentee become a more rounded and secure person, and have indeed been some of our most invaluable and enjoyable sessions.

My mentee is 17 and in her first year of Sixth Form, but when we began our sessions she was in her final year of GCSEs. Every session is either an ‘academic’, ‘future’ or ‘social’ meeting. In ‘academic’ meetings I help her with her schoolwork or with revision. In 'future' sessions, we have focused on her ‘next step’ and how to get there – last year that next step was Sixth Form and this year it has been university. For example, at the moment we are practising the UKCAT tests and looking at ways for her to get medical work experience. 

Social sessions are often our favourite as a chance to chat and escape from our work. In the past, we have played games, baked or done personality tests. If we haven’t seen each other in a while, we will just chat about our lives. The mentoring sessions are all working towards a corresponding ‘academic’, ‘social’ and ‘future’ SMART target, which helps to ensure that we are working towards a longer term aim and that we have some structure. I have found every session to be rewarding, and I usually leave happier than I arrived! 

At times, I have been able to help my mentee with issues she is facing, along with the IntoUniversity staff. Recently, we had an off-site meeting which we both very much enjoyed. 

Mentoring has possibly been one of the most enriching aspects of my time at university and I genuinely look forward to it every week. I will be very sad to leave at the end of this year! 

From a more professional standpoint, volunteering has helped me develop transferable skills such as communication, leadership, teamwork, organisation and time management. However, these are not the biggest differences it has made to my life: IntoUniversity has given me a chance to get to know new people, to (hopefully) make a difference to someone’s life and has also provided a welcome escape from my university work. 

I can’t describe exactly how, but I would say that being a mentor has made me a happier, more rounded person and I feel very lucky to have met my mentee.

By Eve Jaya-Wickrema

If you've been inspired by Eve's story and you'd like to find out more about mentoring a young person, visit our website. 

Launch of IntoUniversity Volunteers' Week

By Helen Roberts, Volunteer Development Manager, IntoUniversity

Today sees the launch of the first ever IntoUniversity Volunteers’ WeekThere are already a number of national and international weeks celebrating the contribution that volunteers make to society and we've always looked forward to recognising our own volunteers during these weeks. 

But since our volunteers are an integral part of our organisation and we simply couldn’t provide the support we do without them, we've created our very own campaign to showcase our wonderful volunteers and to extend a huge thank you to everyone who has supported IntoUniversity and its mission. 

Our Volunteers’ Week will run from 16th- 22nd March 2017 and throughout the week we'll be sharing stories, quotes and photos from some of the amazing people who donate their time across our network of 22 centres. 

In our centres, IntoUniversity teams will be celebrating their volunteers with face-to-face thank yous from staff and students and we'll end the week with a series of events across the 7 cities we work in. We'll share successes from the past year and offer our volunteers the chance to access additional training and feed into the development of our volunteering strategy. 

Please keep an eye on the IntoUniversity blog and our Twitter and Facebook pages to hear our volunteer stories and to find out how you can get involved with volunteering at IntoUniversity. Whether you're looking for long or short-term opportunities, are a current volunteer looking for additional ways to help or considering volunteering with us for the first time, we've got something to suit everybody!

IntoUniversity Volunteers’ Week is an opportunity for us to pay tribute to the invaluable contribution each of our volunteers makes to our organisation and the communities in which we work. 

Once again, thank you to everyone who gives their time to support our work with young people across the country - we couldn’t do it without you.