Volunteer Spotlight – I think that tutoring emphasises the value of the individual

Volunteer Spotlight – I think that tutoring emphasises the value of the individual

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

Josh Hood has been a volunteer tutor with us for about a year now, and it was great to hear more about his experience with us as a tutor, and how he has helped his tutee reach her goals and overcome her challenges. It’s inspiring stories like Josh’s that help us celebrate our volunteers and the difference they’ve made in the lives of our scholars. You can read the full interview below.

Tell me a little bit about you and what got you to where you are today
I’m something of a nomad, both physically and spiritually I suppose. As a result, I’ve taken up lots of opportunities to experience different cultures, jobs and philosophies. Even when it might have seemed daunting to do so, I think that we grow when we push our boundaries and open our minds up to new possibilities – never stop learning. 

What made you decide to become a volunteer tutor?
I’ve been a teacher in the past and got a great deal of satisfaction seeing students progress. Also, my own schooling experience I think could have benefited from receiving some one-on-one help, so I can clearly see the value in what GT Scholars tries to achieve every academic year. 

How did you get started as a volunteer tutor with GT Scholars?
During the first dreaded lockdown of 2020, I discovered the company through LinkedIn and was immediately sold by Temi’s vision and drive. Thereafter, I was paired with a scholar whom I tutored throughout the year.

What did you enjoy most about tutoring your scholar?
My particular scholar showed real enthusiasm and commitment to the course – her reading improved ten-fold, and her predicted grades at school also increased. To witness this progress both academically and in her confidence was a great feeling, and I found this part of this tutoring process most fulfilling.

What goals have you helped your scholar to achieve?
My scholar was keen to improve on her reading in particular, alongside developing an ability to assess prose and poetry in greater detail, with a wider range of vocabulary. She was able to improve on all fronts – a great credit to her aptitude and application. 

What challenges did you face while tutoring your scholar?
My scholar had a busy extracurricular schedule! Oftentimes, we would need to reschedule for a time that didn’t clash with other activities, but it was a hurdle we overcame every week! 

What part of the volunteering process have you found the most fulfilling?
Building a relationship with both the scholar and her parent was really fulfilling. There was mutual respect and appreciation that we developed for what was trying to be achieved – something that I’ll miss massively!

Why do you think tutoring is valuable to young people?
I think that tutoring emphasises the value of the individual – that scholars who may not have received a great deal of attention are, in fact, deserving of the time and consideration required to help them, whether that be in an academic sense or otherwise. 

What do you think is the most important skill to have as a volunteer tutor?
In my experience patience is the biggest virtue when tutoring. To offer structure in your methodology and present material patiently are essential to help scholars in the best way possible

How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?
One of the main reasons I joined GT Scholars was due to a lack of support that I received growing up, and the realisation that I could have realised my potential sooner, should those networks have been in place. I think that structured guidance is integral to helping individuals mature.

What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming a tutor or mentor with GT Scholars?
Through volunteering with GT Scholars, I’ve gained a reinforced desire to help others with the limited skills that I have. I’d recommend becoming a volunteer with GT Scholars to everyone that values fairness, caring and understanding. If you have just one spare hour per week and enjoy the idea of helping young scholars to realise their potential, boosting their confidence and improving their self-esteem, then do it!

Volunteer Spotlight – English tutoring has been a fun, challenging, rewarding, and positive experience! 

Volunteer Spotlight – English tutoring has been a fun, challenging, rewarding, and positive experience! 

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

The volunteer tutors and mentors are in essence the driving force behind GT Scholars, and it’s always great to learn more about them and why they’re passionate about working with young people. We’ve had the privilege of interviewing one of our volunteering English tutors, Sarah, who recently shared more about how she helped her tutees improve their English grades. She also shares a little bit more about her background and why she decided to become an online volunteer tutor with GT Scholars.

Please tell us a bit about yourself?
I work for a local council in London, mainly dealing with contracts and finance. In terms of volunteering, I’ve never done anything like GT Scholars before. I have tutored adults in Spanish and I’ve done volunteering for the NHS and legal charities, but that was always to do with procurement. So this was a new experience for me.

What made you decide to become a volunteer tutor?
During the lockdown, I felt like I needed more opportunities, so I thought it would be nice to do some volunteering. While I was looking around for volunteering opportunities, GT Scholars came up. I thought it sounded interesting and would be something quite rewarding to do. My mom was a teacher, so I understood how rewarding tutoring could be. I thought this would be like a micro version of that, but much easier because you are tutoring one student for one hour.

How did you get started as a volunteer tutor with GT Scholars?
I saw an advert on Do-it.org and I applied. I spoke to Taryn where she told me a bit about the role. She said GT Scholars were looking for English tutors at the time, which was perfect because that’s what I wanted to do! I just went through the process and then I got matched up with my first tutee and went from there.

What did you enjoy most about tutoring your scholar?
There were a couple of things I enjoyed. It’s nice to meet young people because I don’t get to meet them in my everyday life and it’s great to learn more about them. The most rewarding thing for me, which I saw with the first girl I tutored, is that she was growing in confidence and getting better week by week. When I spoke to her mom, her mom said that she feels a lot more confident. She felt like she could do her exams now and that she was not as worried as before. That just made me feel happy, that she felt like that and that hopefully, I had helped her get to that stage. Although, you know, the majority of it was because of her hard work.

What goals have you helped your scholar to achieve?
I’ve had two scholars. The first tutee wanted to focus on exam papers only. She wanted to get confident and, I suppose, improve at answering the exam questions. Throughout the term, she went from being able to do paper one at a certain standard to doing paper one and two at a much higher standard, moving her a level up. I believe she achieved her objectives.

The second tutee was a little bit more challenging because she went overseas a lot and we had some issues with missed lessons. She wanted to gain a better understanding of what the exam papers would be like and what it was like to sit in on an exam. I think we’d built her familiarity with the exam papers. And again, her level improved over the term.

What challenges have you helped your scholar to face?
One of the things that my first tutee struggled with was answering questions on how the structure of text created effects on the reader. We went through various sessions to help build her confidence and understanding in that area. The other challenge was timing, allowing the right amount of time to answer questions in the exams so that they are not rushing at the end. We just practised various techniques they could use for that. 

Both my tutee’s had the same approach to answering questions in English, which was to write and not necessarily plan their answers. I had to work with them and show them that you don’t need a plan for short questions, but that it is beneficial where longer ones are concerned.

What challenges did you face while tutoring your scholar?
I did find it a little bit tricky when I first started tutoring. With my first tutee, I didn’t have the training to teach someone how to approach an exam. I searched for resources online and used some of the links that I had from GT Scholars to try and get materials together. I also familiarised myself with the exam papers because they’re different from the ones I wrote 20 years ago. I think it was just about doing research and putting materials together so I could give a good session.

I found it difficult if one of my tutees would suddenly ask a question that was completely unrelated to the session that we were having. It would be about something else they were finding challenging and because I hadn’t planned for that, I just had to kind of answer as best as I could and then potentially get some more materials together for them outside of the sessions.

Why do you think mentoring is valuable to young people?
I think it’s helpful in two ways. The first is that they get personalised attention where it might be difficult for their teacher to give them because there are so many other students. Helping tailor something to that particular student in a slightly different way is what will help them understand things better. So it’s that kind of personal attention that is beneficial. 

The second thing is that mentoring builds confidence. Both my tutees struggled with this as they believed they were not good at it. But it wasn’t true at all. That was just their perception and all they needed was positive feedback to build their confidence. This allowed them to try something that they were previously scared to do.

What do you think is the most important skill to have as a volunteer tutor?
You need to be quite flexible in your approach to tutoring. You have to try different ways of delivering the same information. So, for example, one session I did was about Grammar. I realised one of my tutees was struggling a bit with some areas of Grammar and the way I presented it was not working since they struggled to grasp it. I had to explain it in a completely different way. Instead of having this table of information, I started using examples. I got some texts and showed them examples. Sometimes, the student might need you to work through a particular question with them first before they try it by themselves. They might prefer to try it by themselves, and you go through it together. It’s just whatever works for that particular individual and you only know these things once you start.

What was the experience as a volunteer English tutor like for you?
I think it was hard work sometimes, as everything is, but it was good. It was rewarding when the students would say that they understood something, or they felt more confident or were looking forward to the next session. I also like the fact it’s one on one. I think that’s beneficial because, as I said, it means you get to give the student personalised attention. It’s been a fun, challenging, rewarding, and positive experience.

Would you recommend becoming a tutor with GT Scholars?
Yes, definitely. I’ve told some people about it actually, as I think it’s a good thing to volunteer. With some voluntary activities, you don’t get the feedback that tells you that what you’re doing is having an impact. With the GT Scholars programme, you do get that feedback because you get it from the student. You can see the student improving. And when you speak to the parents, they will also give you feedback. I think being a tutor with GT Scholars is a great thing to do.

What have you gained from volunteering with GT Scholars?
I think it’s just a positive thing to do as it makes you feel happy to know that hopefully, you’re making a difference in someone’s life by giving them more confidence and helping them to improve. While tutoring English, I was reminded of why I enjoyed it at school and what I enjoy reading. So in that way, it’s been good. If you find out what subjects they prefer, you can almost tailor your tutoring to that specific subject. So with English, you can make it quite technical. If they enjoy the technicality in the lessons, then present it in that way.

What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming a tutor with GT Scholars?
Go for it! Make sure that you use all the materials that you get. What I liked, through the GT Scholars matching process, is that I had students who were quite similar to me in personality. I think that’s good because it means it’s easier to build a relationship with them, and that makes the tutoring better.

Volunteer Spotlight – Mentoring has been a great experience and it’s nice to feel that you’re making a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – Mentoring has been a great experience and it’s nice to feel that you’re making a difference!

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

For this spotlight interview, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Iona, a Geotechnical Engineer working in the offshore wind industry. It was great to hear about her experience as a mentor and why she decided to become a volunteer mentor. She also shares more about the goals she helped her scholar achieve and what she’s gained from volunteering as a mentor with GT Scholars. It was great to hear how passionate she is about helping young people achieve their goals!

Please tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m currently a Geotechnical Engineer. I work in the offshore wind industry, where I design offshore wind turbine foundations. I did my undergraduate and PhD at Oxford. After completing experiments as part of my PhD, I decided to move into the industry and apply those skills in the real world.

Tell me a little bit about you and what got you to where you are today?
At school, I enjoyed Science and Maths, Art, and more practical subjects. I did a bit of research and decided that engineering might be a good fit. I did what’s called a Head Start residential course, where you can go and stay at the university for about four days. They give you a taster of what it’s like to study that subject at University. Doing this convinced me that engineering was a good fit for me and gave me the confidence to apply for it at University.

What made you decide to become a volunteer mentor?
While I was at university, I engaged in quite a bit of outreach work and found it rewarding and wanted to continue that when I moved to London. I feel that I’ve benefited from lots of advice from different places, to help me get to where I am today. I think that the inputs that you get from people who are outside of your school or family can be helpful and can maybe help build confidence in big decisions. I felt that I could give back and be involved with young people, to hopefully help navigate through some of the big decisions.

How did you get started as a volunteer mentor with GT Scholars?
I applied to GT Scholars online, and I was open to being either a mentor or a tutor. I wasn’t quite sure how I could or would be most helpful, so I spoke with GT Scholars about what might be best. I decided a mentor would be a good idea. We had online training, which was thorough and put me in a good position to take it on.  

What did you enjoy most about mentoring your scholar?
It has been rewarding to see the scholars that I work with build their confidence through our conversations. We’ve discussed such a wide variety of topics. From revision and studying strategies to personal strengths and weaknesses and how that impacts the way we study and learn and build relationships. It’s just been great to provide support, and a bit of a sounding board, through this period as well, with school being on and off and having a lot of uncertainty with exams.

What goals have you helped your scholar to achieve?
At the start, we set a lot of goals for the kind of grades to achieve, and of course, that’s been almost impossible this last year, so we’ve planned more short-term goals. We’ve focussed quite a lot on discussing subjects such as the growth mindset and understanding strengths and different personalities. We did this during the period when there was uncertainty in school, so we turned our focus away from exams, which I think was helpful. Recently, I’ve helped my scholar plan revision. We are trying to minimise stress by prioritising the different tasks, particularly now where there’s quite a lot coming up at once. 

What part of the volunteering process have you found the most fulfilling?
I suppose just being there to support someone else through this strange year, knowing that I have made some small contribution to their life. I think it’s valuable in having or being exposed to experiences or opinions or just advice from someone outside of your school or family life, providing a slight alternative touchpoint.

What do you think is the most important skill to have as a volunteer mentor?
Listening and communicating are valuable skills to have as a mentor. Being able to lend an ear to whatever is going on and trying your best to think of creative ways to discuss it further. Having meaningful conversations is a really crucial part of mentoring.

What was the experience as a volunteer mentor, like for you?
It’s been a great experience and nice to feel that you’re making a difference. And from GT Scholars, it’s been a smooth experience with excellent communication. I have felt very well supported throughout the process.

How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?
Support has been essential, particularly with big decisions. You lean on those around you to help you out with those decisions. One of the reasons I think mentoring is so valuable is that it’s providing an alternative form of support, which can be really valuable.

What have you gained from volunteering with GT Scholars?
I’ve developed my communication skills. I don’t usually talk to young people that much, so I had some learning here. I’ve also learnt from some of the worksheets I’ve done together with my Scholar – for example on ‘growth mindset’!

What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming a mentor with GT Scholars?
I would say give it a go. The commitment is manageable. But at the same time, it’s enough of a commitment to feel like you’re involved in something good. The support from GT Scholars is also excellent, so you should feel well supported. I definitely recommend volunteering as a volunteer mentor with GT Scholars.

Volunteer Spotlight – It is rewarding to share knowledge that I’ve gained along the way

Volunteer Spotlight – It is rewarding to share knowledge that I’ve gained along the way

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

Volunteer spotlights are always so inspiring and in our latest volunteer spotlight interview, we had the chance to sit down with Antonio who has been a volunteer mentor with us for almost two years. During this interview, he shares more about his passion to diversify the architecture sector and how volunteering with GT Scholars has helped him to reach out to more young people about careers in architecture. You can read the full interview below.

Can you please tell me a bit about yourself?
I’ve been working as a qualified architect since 2012. I’m currently working in a practice that focuses on private residential homes and also some social housing. During my career, I worked on many fascinating and interesting projects, including a museum in Brixton.

What made you decide to become a volunteer mentor?
I’m really passionate about trying to diversify the architectural profession. Being of dual heritage, I’m very aware that architecture generally doesn’t attract people from diverse backgrounds. I think that architecture can benefit from having more voices from all sorts of different backgrounds. I think it would be great if we can diversify the profession. Being part of the Online Careers Summit helped me reach out to young people. The session helped them believe that they can be architects and understand what architecture is all about.

How did you get started as a volunteer mentor?
I first signed up to be a mentor because I’m at a point now in my career where I’ve got lots of experience and knowledge, and I’d like to share this with people. Mentoring with GT Scholars offers a platform for this. It’s a great way to get positive outreach for the goal of diversifying the profession. I think I’ve had two mentees so far, one long-running and one who wants to be an architect as well. That’s been a really great experience. Hopefully, I assisted her and helped her understand how to become an architect. I was glad to be part of that process.

What part of mentoring have you found the most fulfilling?
It is rewarding to share knowledge that I’ve gained along the way. I love to work, collaborate and share knowledge with other people. It’s nice to be able to give back to people. Having built up experience, knowledge, and expertise myself, I think mentors can be crucial. It’s quite an important role to undertake because you’re offering your expertise in a particular field that they might be interested in or anything in life that they might be facing. So it’s a key role for young people to help them find the right path and build the right career path going on from that as well. I’ve enjoyed taking that responsibility and helping others to find out where they want to go in life.

What goals have you helped your mentees achieve?
One of the main things is goal setting. It’s helping them to find out what they want to achieve and what goals they want at this stage in their life. Where do they want to be? How do they want to achieve it? And how do they get there as well? Mentoring is a great way to open someone’s eyes to the many possibilities out there. 

Did your mentees have any challenges, and how did you help them overcome these challenges?
The challenges have been more about understanding, especially with the most recent mentee who is interested in becoming an architect. The challenge for her was understanding what an architect does. It was getting her to see what I do day in and day out because it’s not just about designing buildings. It’s about designing buildings that work for people. One of the main things is helping to create expectations and an understanding of what she’s interested in and what that means in real life. Rather than just knowing that she wants to design buildings.

Did you face any challenges while mentoring?
Before having worked with GT Scholars, the challenge I had was to define my role specifically. There’s a great guide from GT Scholars about what to do and excellent guidelines and templates that you can follow. I had to negotiate with an individual and figure out what they needed to get out of this process. The challenge for me is trying to negotiate that system and understand how to get the most out. I guess that the other issue is that we’ve had to do this online quite often (during the pandemic). That makes it difficult to gauge people’s reactions, even though you can see their faces. It’s hard to gauge people’s reactions without being in the same room as them. 

As a mentor, what do you think is the most important skill to have?
I think that one of the important things is to be patient with young people. You have to remind yourself that you’re working with young people and trying to help them to get to the place that they want to be. Sometimes, they might not know where that place is. One of the key skills is to be patient and listen to your mentee to try and understand what they’re going through.

How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?
I think support is very important. I’ve never actually had a mentor, although I’ve always tried to find one throughout my career. I’ve tried to find people who I can learn from and look up to. As I said, I haven’t had an official mentor before, but finding people that you can build a support network through, is important. It makes it easier to set goals and to help you achieve those goals. The better your relationships are with your colleagues, and the bigger your support network, the more assistance you’ll have to reach those targets.

How has the experience as a volunteer mentor been for you?
I’ve been really lucky and grateful to volunteer with GT Scholars. I have found them to be supportive. If I had any questions during my mentoring sessions, the GT Scholars team has always been there. They have all helped enable me to perform better in my role as a mentor. Additionally, during the Careers Summit, the team at GT Scholars created loads of helpful information to help us through that process.

What did you gain from volunteering as a mentor?
I found it rewarding to work with young people and hopefully helped them achieve their goals. It also gives you better leadership skills and more skills in dealing with young people. That can only be useful as I go through my career as I’ll need to consult with young people when I design buildings.

Would you recommend anyone to become a volunteer mentor?
Yes, absolutely! I find it interesting and exciting. Even though you get to meet young people in my line of work, you don’t meet them in that same capacity. They’ve got fascinating minds, and it’s exciting to work with people of that age.

What would your message be to anyone that’s now thinking about volunteering or becoming a mentor?
I would say go for it! Do what you can to help people out! If you’ve got the time, passion, and desire to do this, no matter your age or experience. Nothing is stopping you, and GT Scholars will help you perform well in your volunteer mentor role!

Volunteer Spotlight – Spending an hour at a time, just talking to them, working through a text, or reading a newspaper article was so enjoyable!

Volunteer Spotlight – Spending an hour at a time, just talking to them, working through a text, or reading a newspaper article was so enjoyable!

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

At GT Scholars, we have a great team of volunteer tutors and mentors who are passionate about helping young people learn, grow, and achieve their goals in life. We have regular spotlight interviews with our volunteer tutors & mentors where they have the opportunity to share more about themselves and why they decided to become a volunteer. Have a look at our latest spotlight interview with one of our tutors, Jennifer.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and what got you to where you are today?
I play the orchestra for a ballet company as a classical musician. I also give one-to-one music lessons twice a week. I grew up in the North East and went to a good state school, and I had a lot of extra music lessons. Then when I was 18, I moved to Germany to attend music college. I always wanted to be a musician but was not sure I would get into any colleges, so I decided to give it a go somewhere far away. I spent four years in Germany and then did a Master’s degree in London. I started freelancing as a musician and got my job with the ballet a few years later.

What made you decide to become a volunteer tutor?
Through my work, I visit different schools doing music experience days or just working with the children. I think that the difference in provision is shocking. I spent a few days at some famous boarding schools, and I also went to some good state schools with nowhere near the same kind of facilities. During these visits, I met lovely children and young people in both settings. However, when I meet a young person in some places, and they just come across as a bit shy or a bit uncertain, I think for them, If you were going to a school that’s like a castle, would you feel differently about yourself? Would you have more confidence and maybe also feel more entitled to the higher grades? I just noticed that unfairness sometimes. I found that GT Scholars is an educational charity that wants to help ambitious children achieve higher grades. These children may need just a little bit more help than they’re getting now, and that’s why I wanted to start tutoring.

How did you get started as a volunteer tutor with GT Scholars?
I occasionally heard of GT Scholars. I found a link to their website on the Mayor of London website. From that point, I found it all very straightforward. I had to do the usual sort of application process, and then there was an interview at some stage, which is quite enjoyable and easy.

What did you enjoy most about tutoring your scholar?
English was my favourite and strongest subject at school, so it was nice to start getting into it again. I enjoyed going back to analysing poetry and delving deeply into novels. The young people I’ve met so far from the programme had different personalities and backgrounds, but engaging and lovely young people. Spending an hour at a time, just talking to them, working through a text, or reading a newspaper article was so enjoyable.

What part of this tutoring process have you found the most fulfilling?
The conversations that I’ve had with my young people have sometimes surprised me. They have a different opinion to what I was expecting or a different take on something, and that’s probably the most fulfilling thing. When they show a marked improvement on something that they’ve done before, I love that! If they show that they’ve gained understanding and jumped a great boundary, that makes me happy for them.

What goals have you helped your scholar to achieve?
I had a scholar who was very aspirational and wanted to get into a good university. I pointed out a couple of things to them that would help them make that switch and get the highest grade possible. I had another tutee who was not confident at all in her abilities in English. She struggled with it at school. I recommended that she start reading some poetry for her enjoyment because she enjoyed that aspect of what we were doing. I was pleased to hear that she had got herself a book of poetry, and she enjoyed reading it.

What challenges did you face while tutoring your scholar?
It wasn’t exactly a challenge. At the beginning of the programme, I put in some homework in my own time. I didn’t do English at University, so I did a lot of reading about the syllabus and curriculum and what they might be doing at school. I also completed some GCSE past papers. I felt that I needed to do this at my end.

Why do you think tutoring is valuable to young people?
I think that one-to-one attention is all a young person needs. If a young person has a quiet disposition and is sitting in a classroom, they might not put their hand up if they do not understand. If you sit and talk to someone online for an hour and are unsure, they can ask you, and you can chat about it until they understand. That is probably the main thing. There is value for a young person in an hour of uninterrupted attention, where they will have to accept some criticism on their work. It’s good for a young person’s confidence to explain their work and justify it to another adult.

What do you think is the most important skill to have as a volunteer tutor?
I think you need to care about and connect with your tutee from the beginning. You also need to enjoy the subject you’re tutoring and be good at it and transfer that enthusiasm for the subject to your tutee. That will help them enjoy what they are doing and feel more motivated to do their homework.

How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?
Extremely important! When I started my career as a Musician, I often played alongside older and more experienced colleagues. I have always been very open to any criticism that comes my way, and I have been lucky to have had colleagues who informally mentored me. They have offered a lot of feedback on what I can do better, and I have been happy to take that feedback onboard from them.

What have you gained from volunteering with GT Scholars?
I found it very fulfilling. It is a lovely way to spend an hour or so of your time every week. I got to do some interesting reading. Even some of the GCSE past papers, in their way, are fun. If you read this with a young person who has a fresh perspective, it’s really fun.

Would you recommend becoming a tutor with GT Scholars?
Definitely! Like I was saying before, it is just an hour of your time every week. You get to make a connection with someone that you haven’t met before. It’s good, especially now when everyone has been in solitary for so long. For me, that helped, particularly over lockdown. It also gave me something to look forward to, and have an interesting conversation with and hopefully helped them in some way.

What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming a tutor with GT Scholars?
Apply to GT Scholars! You’ll learn a lot about the programme through the application process. A lot of material is provided during the process so that you know exactly what to expect. I would recommend it to anyone interested in volunteer mentoring or tutoring, and would definitely say, give it a go!

Volunteer Spotlight – I believe the best way to give back is to build relationships with people and offer support!

Volunteer Spotlight – I believe the best way to give back is to build relationships with people and offer support!

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

At GT Scholars, we have a great team of volunteer tutors and mentors who are passionate about helping young people learn, grow, and achieve their goals in life. We have regular spotlight interviews with our volunteer tutors & mentors where they have the opportunity to share more about themselves and why they decided to become a volunteer. Have a look at our latest spotlight interview with one of our mentors, Nadeem. He shares more about why he decided to become a mentor and his experience as a volunteer with GT Scholars.

Why did you decide to volunteer in the first place?
Several things added to my decision, but I would say the driver of this came from my son. He just finished his first degree and was on his way to study for his masters. He was considering teaching as a profession, and we spoke about my career around coaching and mentoring people. During the summer, he joined a charity that ran summer schools for bright teenagers aged 13-14 in deprived communities. He invited me to speak about my profession in Medicine at the summer school. I found this to be interesting and challenging. I enjoy coaching and mentoring, and developing people and found that I could do this by being a mentor at GT scholars.

Tell me about you and what got you to where you are today?
I was born in Uganda and arrived as a refugee in the UK in 1972. I faced many interesting challenges coming in as an immigrant but was given the opportunity of a good education, supported by my parents. Looking at the work both my wife and I did, I realised that the opportunities people are presented with, are the result of the environment they find themselves in. I also realised that I could help people to maximise their potential through my work as a medic and in coaching and mentoring.

Did you have a mentor growing up?
I didn’t have a mentor growing up. I think that I ended up identifying with people I respected as role models or peers, or peers I thought my parents would have described as good company. At the beginning of my medical career, I had mentors and coaches who helped me start in my role. I do believe that there is a huge advantage being on the receiving end of this relationship.

How did your experience with your mentor help you develop into your career?
It was very critical to my career being coached and mentored. I trained to be a mentor in the early 2000s, and during that time, mentoring wasn’t very common and rarely heard of. I found being a mentee a great experience, and it helped make a difference to my career choice as a Medic. Mentoring and coaching is a powerful relationship and tool when it is done well. You have an opportunity to influence people in what and how they think of their environment or their organisation.

How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?
My greatest support has been my wife. I always check back with her on the impact I’m trying to make in a person’s life. I always try to get the best type of support on whatever I want to do professionally. I believe that the best way to give back is to build relationships with people and offer support.

Why do you think mentoring is valuable to young people?
Mentoring can change a young person’s understanding of the world, the way they look at their current circumstances, the people around them, and what their future may or may not look like. It exposes them to a different way of thinking or exploring something. Mentoring can certainly help widen a young person’s horizons. In my experience, I’ve noticed young people who find themselves in difficult social circumstances have the sense that this must be the world, and this immediately limits their human potential. The role of mentoring is to try and change this by opening their imagination. I believe that the human potential is only limited by imagination and by those people around the individual. The work that GT Scholars does is extremely professionally framed. The wider the reach to help more young people, the better it will be for the community that these individuals are in and will find themselves in.

What did you gain from volunteering with GT Scholars?
I’ve learned a lot about myself. I learned to write notes in preparation for a session and to be responsive in the middle of a conversation. My first mentee was a very bright 13-year old boy, and I learnt a lot from his perspective on how he sees the world. In one of our sessions, I asked him a question, “How do you determine the validity of the knowledge that you require to make decisions about what you want to do?” The answer was social media and the number of followers and comments you receive. For me, this was quite striking. I went through a different social experience where social media wasn’t part of my childhood or my university education. It struck me that there is a whole different generation that is assessing knowledge in unique ways. They need to be addressed in ways that allow us to understand them better.

What do you think is the most important skill that a mentor should have?
I believe there are a few skills required to be a mentor. If I have to mention one, I’d say it’s to be a good listener. A mentor needs to be a good listener and not just let your mentee talk, but to listen to what, how, and why your mentee is saying something to you. Also, listening in which context something is being said. To maximise the value of the mentoring, you need to absorb what your mentee says to have a better perspective on how you can mentor and support your mentee.

What words of advice or what encouragement do you have for other up-and-coming mentors out there?
I would say go for it! You’d be surprised what you can contribute to a young person’s life through mentoring. The GT Scholars programme is very good and they have a very helpful team that will assist you along the way!

Volunteer Spotlight – tutoring and volunteering are extremely rewarding!

Volunteer Spotlight – tutoring and volunteering are extremely rewarding!

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

At GT Scholars we have a great team of volunteer tutors and mentors that are passionate about helping young people learn, grow, and achieve their goals in life. We have regular spotlight interviews with our volunteers where they share a bit more about themselves and why they chose to volunteer. Have a look at our most recent spotlight interview with volunteer Rhys Rawlings.

Why did you decide to volunteer with GT Scholars?
Well, I’ve been a volunteer tutor for the last three years, for my family mostly. In March, I was put on furlough and found myself with a lot of time on my hands. One day, I saw on the news that children all over the country were being seriously affected by not having their full education. So I thought “Hey, you know what? I’m going to do something about that”. So I just naively went on to social media, and said, “I’ve got a Physics degree, and I’m happy to offer some Maths tutoring for free”. My reach wasn’t very good with my 2 followers! But I was able to start tutoring a few kids, so that was a good start. Then I thought to myself, there has got to be a business, or charity or something out there that has already done this work and identified the children who are struggling most. Off to Google I went and found you guys!

There was one thing on the website that stood out for me, “We believe that all young people have their own unique set of gifts, talents and strengths and they can achieve amazing things when they are given the chance to build on their natural strengths and develop new skills.”. When I saw that, I knew I had to get onboard. I have the exact same belief, so I instantly filled in the contact form and started the application process. Now I’m a tutor with GT Scholars, and it’s been great!

Tell us a little bit more about yourself, and what got you to where you are today?
At the moment, I’m a full-time tutor at Ashlawn School and a part-time tutor with Brilliant Grades and am training to be a Maths teacher. I have a degree in Physics, A* in Maths and A in Physics A-Level, and A* in Maths and Physics GCSE. In my free time, I actually do more Maths! There’s a cool Instagram page (mymathssolutions) that I follow who post some really cool algebra and geometry problems. Apart from Maths, I like spending time with my fiance and family.

I got to where I am today through hard work. Working hard at anything and everything I’ve done has always paid off. Putting the work in was always encouraged by my family and teachers.

Did you have a mentor or tutor before, and did you find it useful?
Yes, I had an English tutor after my GCSE’s. I actually got a D in my English GCSE, and I was in tears on results day! I found my tutor incredibly useful since all the lessons were tailored to my needs. After 4 months of weekly lessons, I was able to turn my D into a C! I’m very very grateful for the help I received from him.

What would you say you gained from having a tutor?
Well first, I gained a C in English! Looking back though, I’ve gained insight on how to be a good tutor/teacher. Which has been extraordinarily useful in the last few months since I’ve been tutoring full time.

How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?
It’s been extremely important to me. I needed the support to get my qualifications, to go to university, to get jobs, to volunteer and to establish a career. Having an education, and the support that goes along with that, is one of the most important things you can do. It can set a solid foundation for a meaningful life.

Why do you think tutoring is valuable to young people today?
I think the value in tutoring comes from its difference to teaching in a classroom. The first difference is that you spend all your time focusing on one child. The second is that you only cover the topics that they’re struggling with. So given enough time, there’ll come a point where they are no longer struggling with any topics. Now they’re able to get the best possible grades in an exam. Then go on to study at the best possible university, and get the best possible job. The value in tutoring is the ability to turn all academic weaknesses into strengths, which is a prerequisite to go onto to lead the most successful life possible.

What have you gained from volunteering with GT Scholars?
I’ve gained the ability to help those who need it most. This is what I was intending to do when I first set out to do tutoring. To spend my free time, helping the largest number of children, achieve the highest possible grades.

What part of the volunteering process have you found was the most fulfilling?
The most fulfilling part is the lightbulb moment I see on my student’s face when they understand a part of maths we’ve been working on. Then when I can see their marks improving through the year, I know all the work has paid off. Nothing beats that.

What do you think is the most important skill that a volunteer or a tutor should have?
I would say the most important skill to have is to be adaptable. You have to be able to change your teaching style to suit your tutee’s needs. I really like working one to one with young people, being able to give your full attention to a child makes them feel more supported. This leads to us strengthening all of their weak points, allowing them to achieve the highest grades.

What message do you have for other tutors out there, tutors that want to give their time or want to join GT Scholars?
My message is that tutoring and volunteering are extremely rewarding. I can confidently say that tutoring is the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done in my professional life. For whatever reason, your tutee’s needs aren’t being met in the classroom. And that isn’t necessarily the teachers’ fault. But because of this, the responsibility of your tutee’s education rests on you. That’s a very large responsibility to take on, so before you start, really think about why you want to start tutoring. The reason must be meaningful to you. If you do have a good reason to, and decide to start tutoring with GT Scholars, it will be an amazing journey.

Volunteer Spotlight: Meet one of our Volunteer Mentors – Rachel

Volunteer Spotlight: Meet one of our Volunteer Mentors – Rachel

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

At GT Scholars we have a great team of volunteer tutors and mentors that are passionate about helping young people learn, grow, and achieve their goals in life. We have regular spotlight interviews with our volunteers where they share a bit more about themselves and why they chose to volunteer. Here is a recent interview with one of our volunteer mentors – Rachel

Tell us a bit more about yourself
Hi, I’m Rachel, and I’m an architect and Design Manager living in London and I’m also a mentor for GT Scholars.

Why did you decide to volunteer as a mentor with GT Scholars?
I wanted to become a mentor with GT Scholars because I care a lot about social mobility in this country. I went to state comprehensive school, and I think it’s good for people to understand that it’s possible to be successful if you attended a comprehensive school. I came across GT Scholars because I knew that I wanted to volunteer with young people and help them with their choices. GT Scholars offered everything that I wanted to help out with.

How did you find the application process?
The process that I went through for joining GT Scholars, I had to answer some questions that Marilyn & Temi gave me. I actually went to meet Temi, the founder in person and it was just an informal nice chat. I was able to ask lots of questions about the process and what we were doing. After that, I had to do some online training which was really helpful and informative. The training provided lots of information about the status of social mobility and state schools in the UK. It was quite a quick process and after I completed the training I was matched with a mentee.

What was your first mentoring session like?
For my first session with Laura, we met up, and we had a very informal conversation, it was just a get to know you chat. I told her a bit more about myself that I’m an architect and about the university, I went to. She also told me what she’s doing at school, what her favourite subjects are, what she likes, what she doesn’t like, and that way I was able to build a picture of the things that I might be able to help with, in our future sessions.

What sort of challenges have you helped your mentee with?
During our sessions, I helped Laura with looking into career options and possibilities for after school. We worked on trying to distil down the options, working through the information overload that’s out there on the internet, and time management was also something that Laura was keen to find out more about. It’s definitely something you can learn, it’s a process and you can get better at it.

What qualities made Laura a good mentee?
The qualities that made Laura a really good mentee were one that she was very keen to learn, open to suggestions and it was very easy to get the conversation going between us. It’s also really good to understand the issues that young people are facing these days, so it was beneficial for me as well as for her.

Why do you think mentoring is so valuable for young people?
I think mentoring is really valuable to young people these days because often in schools I think that there’s not a lot of time in the day to dedicate one on one time. It’s nice to have an open and frank conversation and discussion about the issues that young people are facing these days and just to let them know about all the options that are out there. It’s also good to let them know that they’re very young still, obviously, and basically try to keep your options open, not too close down too many at this stage. You can always go through the refinement process and learn more about what you like, what you don’t like, and know it’s not a mistake to just go through a learning process.

What have you gained from volunteering as a mentor?
So the things I think I’ve gained personally from being a mentor for GT Scholars were finding out more about the issues that young people face today. It’s also been helpful to see how the skills that I’ve learned over the years, been able to help and to offer motivation to young people. Providing a way to help young people think positively has been beneficial to me.

What support have you had as a mentor at GT Scholars?
The support I’ve had from GT Scholars since I signed on as a mentor has been really great and helpful. So in the first instance, I was given some online training to help me with my sessions which were really informative and useful. GT Scholars also checked in with me once a week or every two weeks to see how the sessions were going and if I was having any issues or if I needed any more support. So there weren’t any issues, but it was nice to have the dialogue going constantly.

What would you say to anyone wanting to become a mentor?
If anyone is looking to become a mentor with GT Scholars, I would definitely recommend it and say go for it. You get a lot of support from GT Scholars and it’s a very rewarding opportunity. It’s great to meet young people who are keen to follow their dreams, find out what’s out there, and who’s motivated to learn. It was great to have an open and honest discussion with a young person about their hopes, aspirations and helping them with any issues they might have with the skills that I’ve developed and learned over the years. It’s definitely something that you can fit really easily into your working life, and it was just a nice extra thing to have in my life.

Volunteer Spotlight – It’s good to be able to share your own skills with other people!

Volunteer Spotlight – It’s good to be able to share your own skills with other people!

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

At GT Scholars we have a great team of volunteer tutors and mentors that are passionate about helping young people learn, grow, and achieve their goals in life. We have regular spotlight interviews with our volunteers where they share a bit more about themselves and why they chose to volunteer. Here is a recent interview with one of our volunteer tutors – Jane

Please tell us a bit about yourself?
I am currently a teaching assistant at a college and have over 30 years of financial service experience. I’ve also been tutoring Maths for about 9 years now.

What made you decide to become a volunteer tutor?
I started with private tutoring for family & friends and then I joined other volunteering organisations to gain more experience. My previous volunteer role required me to travel a lot so I did some research and found that GT scholars offered online volunteering opportunities, which was perfect for me.

How did you get started as a volunteer tutor with GT Scholars?
I was looking for a volunteer tutoring opportunity when I found GT Scholars on the internet offering online tutoring programmes, and I thought it might be really interesting. I applied to GT scholars and I’ve been a volunteer with them for the past two years. I followed the application process, we had a few interviews and they needed a couple of references.

What did you enjoy most about tutoring your scholar?
I like the interaction with the tutees and I like using the whiteboard application to work online because you can see what the tutee is doing as they are doing it. It’s also very easy for you to show them what to do and how to do the work properly.

What part of this tutoring process have you found the most fulfilling?
It’s quite rewarding when you work with a tutee who’s struggling with something and over time improves and understands the work eventually. It’s also great when a tutee comes back for their next session and remembers what you discussed in your previous session. I think to see my tutee’s growing with confidence, building skills, and seeing the overall improvement from when you started. It’s also great when the tutee starts to confidently contribute to the conversation.

What goals have you helped your scholar to achieve?
My most recent tutee, Tatiana, improved on her Maths skills. Her mum gave me feedback recently and it was really rewarding to hear! A gain in confidence plays a big role because when you believe in yourself you have a chance of making progress quicker.

What challenges have you helped your scholar to face?
During this term and being in lockdown, scholars didn’t have any direct teaching, so the school would give the scholars a pack of work and ask them to watch videos. I had to do some of the teachings for my most recent tutee and it worked quite well. When I demonstrated examples to Tatiana, she could quite happily apply those concepts.

What challenges did you face while tutoring your scholar?
I didn’t have challenges tutoring Tatiana because she is very motivated. The challenges I faced in being a tutor for GT Scholars were getting used to tutoring in an online environment and also using the whiteboard application. It was easy to work online and with the application, but it took time to get used to it.

What qualities does Tatiana have that makes her a good tutee?
Tatiana is very motivated and always arrived on time for her sessions. She is also a good listener who provided feedback during her sessions. Whenever she didn’t understand something, she wouldn’t keep quiet but would tell me that she doesn’t quite understand, which is great!

Why do you think tutoring is valuable to young people?
Tutoring gives young people the opportunity to catch up on work and receive support from another person on a one to one basis. Teachers don’t have the time to go through work, provide one to one support or give attention to all the children. If the tutee doesn’t understand something in class, he/she can get support from their tutor to understand.

What do you think is the most important skill to have as a tutor!
The most important skills to have as a tutor would probably be having a lot of patience, being able to explain and communicate clearly, and not expecting the tutee to understand the work straight away.

What was the experience as a volunteer tutor like for you?
I like to think that I am helping somebody and the overall experience. I’m really glad that GT Scholars provides these opportunities!

How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?
When I was in school, my teachers supported me and helped me to get a college mentor. Having the support was a great benefit for me, and my college mentor helped me to get into university and so it’s quite nice to be able to do the same for somebody else.

Would you recommend becoming a volunteer with GT Scholars?
Yes, I would recommend becoming a volunteer for GT Scholars and I’ve recently put one of my friends in contact with them.

What have you gained from volunteering with GT Scholars?
You learn to get better in a supporting role. The tutees teach you as well as you teach them because you learn how to be a better communicator with people and make an effort.

What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming a tutor/mentor with GT Scholars?
I would say go for it! Being a tutor provides a great opportunity to learn how to interact with younger people. If you’ve got skills, it’s also good to be able to share those skills with other people and GT Scholars allows you to do so!

Volunteer Spotlight – I want young people to feel confident about the decisions they make in life

Volunteer Spotlight – I want young people to feel confident about the decisions they make in life

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

At GT Scholars we have a great team of volunteer tutors and mentors that are passionate about helping young people learn, grow, and achieve their goals in life. We have regular spotlight interviews with our volunteers where they share a bit more about themselves and why they chose to volunteer. Here is a recent interview with one of our volunteer mentors – Jason

Tell me a bit more about yourself
My name is Jason & I am 37 years old, and my parents were refugees from the Vietnam War, so my heritage is Vietnamese, but I was born in London. I had a strict & traditional upbringing, and it was difficult for my parents to lift that culture within an environment that they were not familiar with.

I had to work through problems and difficulties in school and eventually went to university. Unfortunately, I dropped out of university because the course was not what I’d expected, and that was a defining moment for me where I had to make a big decision for myself without consulting with my family. Since then, I have had various jobs, and I now work for the NHS as a contract manager.

In my day to day life, I am married to a wonderful wife, I have a dog and work all the time, but work is like play for me! As part of my job, and also as an extracurricular activity, I am a mentor for adults, people at different levels, including people who are more senior than me within the NHS.

Why did you apply to GT Scholars?
I was tackling issues with people who were already at an older age and could not turn back the time, so I thought it would be quite useful to help young people and to make sure that they have more confidence in the future.

When I was an A level student, my family, friends, and I thought that I would be going to university, and also believed that I would get a degree. I dropped out of university, and it was a difficult decision to make, but I had to stand by that. Today I want to help young people to make the right decisions for them, and also be confident with the decisions they make.

What was the joining process like?
The process of joining GT Scholars was quite robust. As part of the process, a DBS check was done and also training for child protection and safeguarding.

Did you have any expectations when you started?
When I started, I didn’t have any expectations and approached it with an open mind. I would advise that a volunteer should go into it without any expectations, cause you won’t know what to expect and you can do your best with the situation given. I faced challenges along the way, but it was a positive experience to engage with both the mentee and also the parents. What you tend to find is that parents want their child to be mentored or tutored, and the challenge is to start getting the young person engaged and open to receive the support.

Did you experience any challenges?
I’ve worked with a few mentees, and sometimes it can be a bit challenging, mainly because they don’t understand why they are there. You can support and help them through that, to understand the benefits of having a mentor or tutor. Other times the mentee can be very receptive and engaging, which makes the process easier.

A challenge that I can improve on is getting the mentee more engaged. As time goes by, the mentee might be thinking that you are just repeating the same old advice, so you have to keep it interesting. It is important to stay connected in between your sessions. When I’ve had any problems whatsoever, GT Scholars would be one phone call away, and they’re very responsive.

What was your most recent mentee like?
My first meeting with Daniel and his mum was very positive and interesting. They came to my office, and we sat down for a couple of hours and could have gone on for longer, but we had to go home. What stood out the most for me, was Daniel’s relationship with his mum and the way they engaged with me together. I knew from then that this was someone that I could genuinely help and guide.

What was your mentoring experience with Daniel like?
We worked around certain themes, one of them being for Daniel to be more confident with himself and trying to be more confident with the decisions he makes. We also talked about his independence, being less reliant on other people, and getting ready for adulthood. One of Daniel’s qualities that stood out was that he was very interested in what I had to say. When I gave him advice or talked through situations, what I said seemed to resonate with him, and he was able to take it away and then continue discussions when he came back.

Would you say mentoring is valuable for young people?
Mentoring is valuable for young people to get a chance to talk to another adult who they are not familiar with, talking to someone who doesn’t know them, so they get a chance to start again on a clean slate. Mentoring is also valuable for young people who want to bounce ideas off people who might already have experience in the area they are interested in.

Did you receive support throughout the programme?
I received regular support and would often get a call or an email checking in. Every quarter we would have to submit some reports and I had some technical difficulties. Marilyn helped me out with the issue and helped me get through my paperwork. We also received regular newsletters about what’s happening in the organisation. This was really great to have because it keeps you in touch with everyone else and gives you an idea of what else is happening out there.

What would you say to people who want to join the programme?
I would say that you’ll need to be prepared for how different you may find your mentee, you may be worlds apart. You’ll have to be a good communicator with parents and mentees. Be sure to back up your words with action, always practice what you preach and don’t give out advice that you don’t actually follow yourself, because you won’t be able to get the confidence from your mentee. Make sure that you are in a good place before committing time to help others because they will be relying on you.