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.

An interview with one of our fantastic volunteer mentors – Nileema Patel

An interview with one of our fantastic volunteer mentors – Nileema Patel

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

Please tell us a bit about yourself
Many years ago, I used to teach primary school students as a volunteer and that was a very rewarding experience. Unfortunately, due to increasing time commitments elsewhere I couldn’t continue along with that. Recently, when things had settled back down, I realised I wanted to do something to help young people again and came across GT Scholars not long after I started looking for opportunities to do so. It’s been really nice to help out through mentoring, which has been completely different, yet just as rewarding, experience when compared to teaching. Outside of volunteering, I work in healthcare and enjoy baking and reading in my spare time.

How did you first hear about GT Scholars?
I came across GT Scholars through an online search engine. I was looking for an opportunity that would allow me to give more to my community, particularly in a way that would help young people. I went on your website and got a good feeling about the mission, which very much aligns with my values. Reading about Temi and her background was really inspiring and it gave me confidence in GT Scholars as a committed and genuine social enterprise. I got in touch through the online application form and it all went from there really.

What goals have you helped your scholar to achieve?
So this term we focused on public speaking a lot; how to feel more confident and assured. We worked on different techniques to apply before a speaking assignment to see what helped and felt most natural. You know, just simple things like practising a lot, practising with different people, trying out tips from the famous Ted Talk on confidence by Amy Cuddy.

A recurring theme during our sessions has also been about career choices, university choices and progressing to sixth-form. These are longer-term goals that are useful to start thinking about early on and I look forward to helping Erica achieve them as we move into the next term.

What qualities does Erica have that makes her a good mentee?
Erica is a wonderful mentee. She’s punctual, listens well and is forthcoming about topics of interest or any issues that she’s worried about. She’s organised as well and very good at managing her time and extracurricular activities. I think all of those skills really make her a good mentee as well as a good student, and I think this will translate very well professionally, too, in whatever area she decides to go into eventually.

Why do you think mentoring is valuable to young people?
I think the most valuable aspect of mentoring is the confidence that a young person might gain from it. Being a young person, particularly in a big city like London, it can be difficult to have self-confidence. You don’t have a lot of experience and everything seems new and sometimes unapproachable, particularly in areas such as applying to university. So I think the support that comes from mentoring can be extremely valuable in terms of validating a young person’s ideas and goals. Practically, mentoring is a great way to highlight opportunities to get involved in.

What challenges did you face while mentoring your scholar?
For me, the first session was probably the most challenging because I did not have a lot of mentoring experience. However, I found that GT Scholars had sheets to prepare mentors which I read beforehand and which were very helpful in giving me an idea of how to build rapport and understand what the priorities of mentoring are.

I also tried to think back to times I have been mentored in the past, informally and formally. I thought about what made my mentors so good and then tried to embody that in my role as a mentor.

What did you enjoy most about volunteering and mentoring?
I really enjoyed getting to know the mentee, as well as her mother. You know Erica, she’s already a very bright, ambitious person, on the lookout for opportunities to support her goals and a little bit of guidance. I enjoy being a sounding board for her, hearing about her goals and being able to guide her as she achieves them. I particularly like that, over the sessions, I am able to see her progress, and get to hear feedback from her and her mother about how our sessions are impacting her social and academic development.

What have you gained from being a volunteer mentor with GT Scholars?
It’s been really nice to be able to pass along some of the things I have learnt along the way to an enthusiastic young person who might be able to benefit from that advice. Building relationships with the team at GT Scholars, my mentee and her mother, has been personally very rewarding and the whole process has a been wonderful way to give back.

 

An interview with one of our volunteer online tutors – Arash Khosravi

An interview with one of our volunteer online tutors – Arash Khosravi

Online volunteering Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

Tell me a little bit about you and what got you to where you are today?
I went through school and after that, I did Economics at A-level and then studied Economics full time at UCL. During my time at UCL, I was the president of the UCL branch of the charity Team Up. After graduation, I was offered a job at the Bank of England where I worked as a Data Analyst.

What made you decide to become a volunteer tutor?
I really feel like I want to give back to society and give back to people that are in a less fortunate position than I am, through no fault of their own, and help them achieve their full potential. I did some informal tutoring a few years ago and I got really good feedback. That made me think and I then decided to take my strengths and use them to help people that really need the support. Since volunteering at UCL, I was trying to find other opportunities to volunteer that could fit in with my work schedule. I find that tutoring is a really good option and that I can make a real difference in a young person’s life.

What did you enjoy most about tutoring your scholar?
What I enjoyed most was really seeing the development of my scholar throughout the 12 week term. I think the highlight for me was in week 4 when I logged into Skype for our session and my scholar said: ‘’Sir, sir you know the thing we’ve done with the area of the square? I tried it in class and my teacher said I got the question right!” She was really chuffed about it and that was great to hear. I think engaging with the scholar and building a good relationship is what I’ve enjoyed most. I was very lucky to be matched with someone who is really engaged and ready to learn.

What challenges have you helped your scholar to face?
What I found at the beginning of this term in my scholar was the fact that she was doubting herself. I think the challenge was to reinforce the knowledge she already had and building her confidence. In the beginning, I would ask a question and she would attempt to solve 60% of the question but wouldn’t have the confidence to work through the remaining 40%. She would then say she did not know how to do it. I focussed on building her confidence and to say to herself, I do know how to do it and I won’t give up. It’s really great to see how much her maths has developed and improved.

What goals have you helped your scholar to achieve?
I think a good example of one of our goals would be the mock test my scholar had coming up. A week before the mock test we did two tutoring sessions so I could help her prepare for the test. After the test, she came back and said that a lot of the work we revised did come up in the test and she really felt confident answering them. We also set up goals for some of the topics she felt a bit weaker in and although she was struggling with it earlier on in the term she was able to tackle them after a few week’s sessions.

Why do you think tutoring is valuable to young people?
Because I feel that students at school have a wide range of abilities and are at different levels. I don’t think that the modern skill system can factor that in with a class of 30 students, with different abilities and learning styles. Some young people need additional support and a lot of them don’t have the opportunity to get 1-to-1 support and can fall behind. I think tutoring can help fill that gap between school and home. Free tutoring is great to bridge the gap between young people who can afford private tutoring and those who cant.

Do you have a message for young people?
I would say they should keep working, keep trying and keep persevering with whatever they want to do in life. There’s no one path to get you where you want to go. Be who you are and don’t try to be anyone else. And with that mindset try things and really persevere. Like with the GT Scholar Programme, even if you don’t get the results initially, keep trying and pushing forward and towards where you want to go.

How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?
My dad is a maths lecturer, I could not get away from maths as a young person (laughs). Until about GCSE I was rubbish at maths, I used to get 40%. I think it was because I wanted to get away from maths because my dad will always be talking about it. At that age, I did not realise the importance of it. Until my dad sat me down and got me to engage and focus and made me realise the importance of it. In terms of other subjects, I did not have formal tutors but had support from my peers and family that helped me a lot.

What have you gained from volunteering with GT Scholars?
I feel like I gained a lot of confidence. I was a bit nervous before my first session because I see it as a real responsibility and duty to help a young person on their journey with mathematics. I really wanted to do a good job and make an impact on my scholar’s life. Having my scholar come back by the fourth session saying how she benefited from our sessions had really boosted my confidence. I think there are a lot of children out there that don’t see their own potential and it’s really opened my eyes to that. I have also gained a great relationship with my scholar and we even joke around during sessions sometimes.

Would you recommend becoming a tutor with GT Scholars?
Definitely. I think the whole process is really good and I gained a lot from the experience. For a tutor to be able to come in and really feel the positive impact made with a scholar and really seeing the journey you’re both going through during the 12 weeks is just amazing. The programme is really great for those scholars who are at average or just below, to give them that extra boost they need. Volunteering as a tutor is a nice way to start volunteering, whether it’s your first time or if you’re an experienced volunteer. I definitely recommend it in terms of it being a great way to volunteer and help young people.

An interview with one of our volunteer online tutors – Janet Cheney

An interview with one of our volunteer online tutors – Janet Cheney

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

What have you been up to since your last volunteer spotlight interview?
The main thing has been moving down to a house in Devon. Online tutoring has been really important for me because I do move around a lot. My parents live up in Lancashire and my daughters live in London, so I’m constantly travelling between these places to be able to see everybody. Being able to still tutor no matter where I am, has really fitted in extremely well and I find it very rewarding

This term you’ve been matched with Ladan. What did you enjoy most about tutoring her?
Ladan is an absolute delight! She’s so enthusiastic and also so eager to learn and doesn’t give up. She keeps persisting till she gets something and that’s just wonderful. She’s done some end of year tests in school recently and some of the questions that she showed me asking me: ‘’Have I done this right?’’, were perfect. I think by doing things and showing she can do it gives her more confidence. It’s great working with her, she is on top of everything.

What goals have you helped your scholar to achieve?
Her main target, right from the beginning, was to move up to higher GCSE work. She was on foundation stream. Her predicted grade from school is a grade 6 which is just over the boundary of foundation. But I can understand that perhaps she has struggled a bit but I do think a lot of it is confidence and that’s what I’ve been aiming to do, is really build her confidence up. I think by having a bit more time in the tutorial to really understand topics, she then has more confidence to apply them. We’ve spent a lot of time going through exam style questions because they can be very different from class exercises. You know, even if you’ve got the basic techniques, actually learning to understand the question, turn it into a math problem and solving it, that’s what we have focused a lot of attention on.

She is now doing these steps herself without me having to prompt her. So I think that’s made a big difference and I am pleased to hear that she has now been moved up to a higher stream. We’ve done a bit of work on the higher level, you know, just to show her what it’s like and to start looking at how she has to apply and use several techniques together to solve a problem and I think that is quite a big step.

What challenges at the start of your relationship that was clear to you and that she’s made a massive improvement on?
When I started with her in February, she had just taken an exam at school. I think if she’s done particularly well in that she might have been able to go up to a higher stream then, but there were some areas she found challenging. We focussed a lot on basic manipulation and fractions and she is definitely more confident about that. My strategy was that I thought she could gain a lot of points in quite a lot of areas by paying attention to the basics.

It was rewarding going through recent questions and she took me through what she did. The way she modelled her answers were good, the same way we did it together, and it showed that she had learned and that she can now apply it herself. Speaking to her mother, she had feedback from school that she’s improved her confidence as well. She did another end of year test, she said that she felt a lot more confident in it than her previous test and indeed, she has now been able to go up to the higher level.

Why do you think tutoring is valuable to young people?
I think the one to one aspect is particularly important, being able to concentrate on the points that they are struggling with. I think it must be very difficult in class for a teacher to cover everything. In a tutoring session, you can focus on the aspect that your student is struggling with and so the tutoring is more targeted. The focus on doing exam style questions is very useful for most students. I will make sure that the student is sound on their basic technique, but then move on to applying it successfully. Also working with a student to develop a methodology which works for them.

I made it very clear, I can’t help you to solve every question, you’ve got to find ways of doing that yourself. So you’ll need to be able to read a
question and take out of it what you need to find out what the maths problem is. I think that’s something again that must be quite hard in class to do. I’m sure they do try and do that but again, probably different styles suit different students. You know some will find they do better in a certain way. Some like a pictorial view, some like to have a diagram or a tabular view. You can be more flexible if you are doing it one to one.

You’ve been a volunteer tutor with us for a couple of terms, what made you decide to continue volunteering this term?
I thoroughly enjoyed it last year, particularly because it fits in with my lifestyle. I have done quite a bit of tutoring in school over the last few years with another organisation, but unfortunately, it is all based in London and you have to commit to doing it there every week and I can’t always do that, so this fits much better.

The other thing I enjoy about how you are set up is that you have a relationship with the parent, which again, I did not have when I went into school. You can set the homework and they can help with the mechanics of that. Also when you have parents involved they will encourage their children and I think it does make a big difference. I had a student that needed a bit of encouragement and his parents were there to do that. When he got his results he was very pleased, he got his grade 5, and his parents were also delighted, this was very rewarding for me as it is nice to be appreciated and it has also given me the confidence to continue with the online tutoring.

What is the one quality of Ladan that stands out above all others that make her a good tutee?
I think it is her determination. She always wants to do more, she’s not content to just work at a certain level, she wants to do better all the time. I think she’s very mature in that way, certainly in comparison with a lot of students I’ve dealt with. She’s mature for her age. At the end of the day, they have to go away and they have to achieve on their own. I have no doubt that she will do well.

What have you gained from volunteering with GT Scholars?
It’s a sense of achievement and I also enjoy working with young people. We can have a laugh about things and it’s a nice routine, once a week. The job I had before I retired was very demanding and when I finished doing that I wanted to do something which was more for me. I’ve always enjoyed doing Maths and helped my own children through their GCSE and A levels and I enjoyed helping them. I just wanted to carry on really and it is an important part of my life that I get a lot of enjoyment and fulfilment out of.

Do you feel that you’ve got support from the GT Scholars team? What was your experience like?
It’s been very good. I think the way it’s been set up, you know, with the weekly reporting, it’s good to have that, it’s a discipline that I wouldn’t necessarily do myself, to be honest, but it is good to have as a back up to go back and being able to see what you’ve done. Also setting the end of term assessments, that’s useful, although sometimes it can be difficult for the students to fit them in because it takes quite a long doing them, but I think if you’re flexible about it, it is not really a problem. The initial training I had was also useful and I also find the online whiteboard generally pretty good.

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Meet one of our Volunteer Tutors – Claire

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

As part of our volunteer spotlight series, we interviewed one of our amazing volunteer English tutors, Claire. You can watch the full interview in the video linked above. You can also find the transcript below.


My name is Claire and I’m in HR for a large consumer goods organisation and I’m a volunteer tutor with GT Scholars.

Why did you decide to start volunteering with GT Scholars?
So I guess the key thing why I decided to become a tutor is, I was born partially deaf, and I think one of those things is because of that people didn’t have very high expectations of myself. I worked really hard and I have become, some people would say, successful.

I got an awful lot of help along the way from my family, from some key people that helped me keep on that journey and I am hugely grateful to them and as a result of that, I think I do want to help other people realise their potential. Everyone has got so much potential and if I can give something back and have other people realise their potential then that’s what I’d really love to do. So that’s how I came to look for tutoring and looking to give back in some way in the same way that people gave to me which is listening, teaching, coaching. So that’s how I started looking at tutoring.

How did you get started as a volunteer tutor with GT Scholars?
So the way I got started with GT Scholars and how I found GT Scholars was simply researching for volunteering and tutoring. So I found it through Google and what stopped me at GT Scholars was how professional it all was. The website was really professional and there were loads of information, every question I had was pretty much already answered on the website.

And then I got in touch via the email and I got really great responses, really quick responses.

So I followed through the process which was you know, intimidating at times, sometimes I felt like I am being judged for the first time, but really nice people that I met throughout the whole process.

And I got signed off to become a tutor, and then I just got started in terms of onboarding. The other thing about the onboarding, it was really impressive, so for me as an HR professional, onboarding is important, and it was a really good process, really good training and lots of support now while I’m tutoring as well.

What was the experience as a volunteer English tutor like for you?
Now how I got started with the tutoring with the very initial stages was making the arrangements with Samuel and his father for the initial session and then having that initial call. We had a telephone call initially then we moved on to Skype and we decided that was the one, we looked at Google Hangouts and Skype and there are so many great options these days but Skype worked pretty well for us.

So that first session was just getting to know Samuel, him getting to know me and really understanding what he wanted out of it because there are so many things you can cover in this session and its limited time. Then we just ran through that and really sort of clarified some specific points that he wanted to learn about. Then I had to go and do research because I haven’t done the English language for such a long time so we had an initial session and we had exam questions to help me assess where he was and then we focused in on a couple of areas. Then we just met each time each week through Skype. Having that face to face contact in the video, I think it’s actually really helpful and really convenient being able to do that from home, from this seat actually and having those conversations each week and trying to move it forward, trying to help him decide where he wanted to focus as well. I think that’s one of the really important things about being the tutor is listening. So I had loads of ideas about what I thought we could talk about and actually it was quite different. So Samuel needed quite specific things and I hope that was helpful for him and a lot of it was conversation, having good conversation about what the examiners are looking for and therefore how he can respond and this is specifically for example about managing time making sure you get to all of the questions in the exams and giving good points across each of those questions.

What have you enjoyed most about volunteer tutoring?
So I think one of the things I found really fulfilling during this process is when you see the ‘aha’ moments and you just see the ‘oh that is a different way of looking at it that I haven’t seen before’, that’s been really powerful. Other things I enjoy are that sense of imparting what I know and thinking that you can make a difference in that way.

And I guess the final thing would be making space for conversation – a safe space for someone in this case to have a really open conversation around what’s worrying him and him being able to talk about that.

What challenges have you as a volunteer tutor helped your scholar overcome?
So the kind of challenges that Samuel seems to have had help with in terms of the conversations that he and I have had, a key thing has been around timing. So managing his own time both in preparing for our sessions doing the homework and then in exams, so that has been quite a lot of our conversations. It’s how he plans for that and how he then makes that impact during the exam so that he can get better marks as he goes forward.

What challenges did you face as a volunteer tutor?
There were some challenges to being a tutor. So one of them is being organised so I have to make time to do my preparation. I had to put myself in Samuel’s shoes, think about what would be the right conversation for us to have and about the material that should help him and then really being present during the sessions and just allow that mental space for him and I to have a great conversation and let all the distractions go.

Why do you think tutoring is valuable for young people?
I think tutoring offers quite a lot to young people. A big part of that is simply dedicated time with someone who is listening to you and answering your unique questions and thinking about you and your unique scenario. So that’s a key thing just that mental space and commitment from somebody.

I think the other bit is, of course, the knowledge that they’re gaining from somebody else who has taken the time to listen to the specific challenges that they are facing and that they want help with.

What would you say to anyone thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor with us?
So if anyone is thinking about tutoring I really recommend it. GT Scholars is a really professional organisation to do it with. You get a huge amount of support at every step of the way. So GT Scholars is really good and tutoring is really fun. You get some time with a young person, the kind of people that maybe you don’t get time to interact with elsewhere in your life and you really get to make an impact on one person’s life and who knows what that leads to.

GT Scholars is a not-for-profit social enterprise and registered charity. Our after-school tutoring, mentoring and enrichment programme is designed to help young people aged 11-18 achieve their academic and career aspirations. Visit our website if you’d like to know more about the GT Scholars Programme and how you can become a volunteer tutor to make a significant difference in young people’s lives.

Meet one of our Volunteer Mentors – Sophie Germain

Meet one of our Volunteer Mentors – Sophie Germain

Volunteer mentors Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

Who are the volunteer mentors of GT Scholars? Every once in a while we conduct an interview with one of our amazing volunteers so we can introduce them to you and share the good work they have been doing. Our volunteers form a crucial part of GT Scholars and their charitable deeds never goes unnoticed. We spoke to the lovely Sophie Germain to find out her views on social mobility and what she enjoys most about volunteering with GT Scholars.

Could you tell us about what led you to volunteering as a mentor with GT Scholars??
I try to explore a different area each year and I felt that volunteering with teenagers is one of the demographics I have not worked with before. I wanted to do something that was accessible to a lot of people and that was not limited to only a certain area you live in, the school you go to etc.

What are some of your opinions about social mobility?
In London, a perceived good area and a not so good area can be found in a commutable distance from one another. There are a lot of things to see and do and a lot is available for free. Perhaps in smaller towns, this mix is harder to find. Also once you’ve passed the stage of institutional education and you’ve started your career you are less likely to be type-casted based on where you went to school and it’s more about your experience. I went to a state school and some of my friends were in private schools but both groups have ended up in equivalent positions. Sometimes if you have a plan and you are dedicated to it, it is easier to achieve a particular goal if you have access to the correct information and the right people around you. However, there are certain historical and cultural issues that are still at play today that puts up barriers for some people. For example, an issue like the gender pay gap review due to male dominated boardrooms and industries. Balancing this will take a long time and to do it in a way that is fairer.

How did you come to this conclusion?
London has quite a high diversity level and when I was growing up it was common for children to socialise with other children who have a very different background to their own. In regards to gender, changes in attitude need to come from men and women. Including better grounds for the way children are raised and not pigeonholing them based on aspects such as gender. It also requires being open-minded in recruiting positions to not focus on gender, race, economic background, social circles etc.

What would you tell someone who is considering volunteering with GT Scholars?
It is a well-operated volunteer programme so I would recommend people to get involved. You get the chance to share new ideas and methods of learning with a young person who can benefit from it. It is nice to hear the dreams of a young person and help them to access the tools that they need to achieve them.

What do you enjoy the most about being a volunteer at GT Scholars? Well, it is early days for me because I have only done two terms so far. I would like to get more involved in the open days. But I would say that I enjoyed giving my mentees a positive outlook on what can be achieved. For some people, teenage years can be quite difficult to go through. I tell my mentees about the different perspective of other people and prepare them to have the skills to deal with other people’s opinions and encourage them to be focused.

What is your message or advice to young people of today?

I would suggest that they try as many new things as they can whilst they are young. This helps to build up experience, meet different people and get familiar with what they like and dislike. I would also advise not to become overburdened with things and take the time to learn what brings them inner peace, as I think it is an important part of getting to know oneself. Don’t be overly judgemental and learn how to maintain a healthy balanced lifestyle.

As a Kingston University graduate, I can apply the skills that I’ve learned and I can also share the passion of what the core company is. I study philosophy in my spare time and enjoy staying fit.

Sophie enjoys her professional career as it falls in her line of interest and previous studies. She works for AEG Europe as an analyst in the live sports and music industry. Her company offers a Giving Back Day to employees for volunteering.

GT Scholars is a social enterprise that provides tutoring, mentoring and enrichment to young people from a range of backgrounds. To find out more about our volunteering opportunities, please get in touch with us.

Meet one of our volunteer English tutors – Roberta Wiafe

Meet one of our volunteer English tutors – Roberta Wiafe

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers Young people

Every now and then we interview one of our remarkable GT Scholars volunteers to find out who the person behind the volunteer is. Without our dedicated volunteers, our mission would not have been able to make the impact that it has.  We had a chat with one of our tutors about volunteering, who she is and her message to young people of today is. Here is what she had to say:

  1. How did you first get involved in volunteering with GT Scholars?
    I first learned of GT Scholars on the Team London website when I was looking for an opportunity to offer my time volunteering. Since I really enjoyed English as a subject at school and liked plays I thought that being a Volunteer Online Tutor would be the best fit for me. Upon visiting the GT Scholars website and reading more about their cause, I decided that I really wanted to be part of their mission.
  2. Why are you supporting GT Scholars as opposed to other groups working to improve social mobility?
    The reason why I like being part of the GT Scholars volunteer team is that I enjoy being able to work with a wide demographic range of students in terms of their abilities and backgrounds.
  3. What might surprise your friends/family other volunteers to know about you?
    I think most my friends and family would be surprised if they knew that I am a theatre critic in my spare time.
  4. How has volunteering changed you as a person and what have you learned from your time volunteering?
    I think during my time volunteering I have learned how to utilise different methods of explaining concepts to people. When approaching a new topic it’s often the case that I and my student have to go over subject matter a number of times to reinforce the ideas. To ensure that the ideas really stay with him and that he understands the concepts from a range of difficult angles, I have to really think about different ways of presenting the information. This has helped me to think more innovatively and to really listen to my student so that I can tailor my approach in a way that’s most helpful to him. And these are both skills that I can apply to my everyday life.
  5. Is there anyone in particular you could tell me about who has influenced your decision to start volunteering in general?
    When I was a student, about 16 years old,  I was involved with the Social Mobility Foundation. At the time they ran a program which made it possible for me to be matched with a mentor and I also received an opportunity to take up an internship at parliament.  Because I’ve had the privilege of support and guidance as a young person, I feel that I want to ‘’pay it forward’’ and give that same opportunity back to someone else.

Roberta is truly inspiring and serves for interesting conversation. When asked what her message to young people of today is, she said: ‘’ Work hard and do your best. If you do those things you will get where you want to be. Take time to celebrate, when you achieve something, celebrate your success. Lastly always be proud of yourself and enjoy the journey.’’ That is definitely words of wisdom to live by! Roberta holds an MSc in International Public Policy from the University College London and a BA Hons degree in History and Politics from the University of Sussex.

GT Scholars is a social enterprise that provides tutoring, mentoring and enrichment to young people from a range of backgrounds. To find out more about our volunteering opportunities, please get in touch with us.

Meet one of our volunteer Maths tutors – Janet

Meet one of our volunteer Maths tutors – Janet

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

Our volunteers are truly exceptional people that are passionate about making a difference in education and doing their part in improving social mobility. We would like you to get to know who they are and what they do at GT Scholars, so every few weeks we conduct an interview with one of them. Here is the most recent interview with one of our volunteer tutors, Janet Cheney.

  1. Why did you decide to volunteer your time with GT Scholars?
    I have been tutoring for about 5 years and I am currently in the process of partly relocating from London to South Devon. This will restrict my regular 1-to-1 tutoring sessions in London. I was pleased when I discovered the online volunteer tutoring opportunity at GT Scholars. Tutoring has become very expensive and I loved the idea of combining my love for teaching maths and physics and helping students from low-income backgrounds.
  2. Tell me a little bit about you and what got you to where you are today?
    I completed my BSc (First Class Hons) in Mathematics and Astrophysics and also did my PhD in Astronomy at Queen Mary College, University of London.

    I spent most of my professional career operating at senior level. I have 15 years experience working in key management roles.  In particular, I was IT project manager for BT’s London Code Change Project which involved changing all the telephone numbers in London due to a shortage of codes.

    After 15 Years working on a senior management level, I decided upon an early retirement to spend more time with my family. This was when I began to volunteer my time tutoring within various non-profit organisations.
  3. How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?
    When I was growing up there was not a lot of role models for women. My family was very supportive and I was privileged enough to have had role models within my family. My school was also very supportive.  I was the first in my family to have gone to university.  I’ve always appreciated that I was able to have done so as I was not oblivious to the fact that not all young people were as privileged as I was. I think my dream to study astronomy has motivated me in working hard at maths and physics as I knew knowledge of these subjects were necessary to reach my goal. I am glad I can share my knowledge and help other young people with similar dreams.
  4. Why do you think tutoring is valuable to young people?
    I believe it is the individual attention a young person receives when he has a tutor. Mathematics is an important subject because it can open a lot of opportunities. Often teachers can’t reach all the students’ needs at an individual level as not all the students need help in the same areas. I think a tutor fills that gap. Tutoring can also be a great help for exam preparations and spending that extra quality time with the student on subject areas that they have difficulty with.  I also think that a tutor can be useful when it comes to discussing time management when taking an exam. Especially in mathematics, there are often ways to find faster methods to solve problems.
  5. What part of the volunteering process have you found the most fulfilling?
    I think the most fulfilling part of the volunteering process is to bear witness to the improvement of a young person who really struggled with a  subject. As the tutor, you knew first hand where the difficult areas were and how much the student has improved.

Janet is a good listener with great subject knowledge. She believes that this is what helps her to be a better tutor: ‘If you have a good understanding of who your student is, you will have a better idea of how to approach tutoring that student.’ Janet spends her spare time studying butterflies using catch and release methods as she has a true passion for science and nature.

GT Scholars is a social enterprise that provides tutoring, mentoring and enrichment to young people from a range of backgrounds. To find out more about our volunteering opportunities, please get in touch with us