Volunteer Spotlight – I think that you can learn critical skills by talking to other people who have been through it already.

Volunteer Spotlight – I think that you can learn critical skills by talking to other people who have been through it already.

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

Can you tell me why you decided to volunteer your time with GT Scholars?

I feel very fortunate in terms of the work that I do, which is impactful in some shape or form. I feel that I was able to get into this position because I’ve been very lucky with having a private education. I wanted to try to make it possible for others to realise that there’s an interesting route to go down through University and then into either academia or policy or somewhere in between.

I started looking around for a mentoring programme based on that. It’s been something that I’ve wanted to do for some time to try to help out with things like presentation skills or writing and approaching assignments, and how to make it more systematic and more structured and easier to do and ultimately more successful.

Have you ever had a mentor?

Yes, I have. I have had several, but the most impactful was my second supervisor for my PH. D. who is a scholar of strategic communication and insurgency with a background in journalism and documentary production and several other things. He was someone who I spent many hours talking to about a whole range of things over the last five years, and he really helped me understand that there was more to the work that I was doing than I had initially thought.

What did you gain from having a mentor?

I come from a very focused background in terms of the research that I do and he helped me bring in a lot of other kinds of theories and cultural references into the work that I do. He helped me think about it in a way that was a lot more ambitious and ultimately more interesting as well. His continuing presence and willingness to talk to me about anything in relation to the work I was doing is invaluable to me.

How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?

My job involves a lot of writing and a lot of thinking about data in various ways or using different methods to reach useful conclusions based on diverse data sets. So it’s been driven by the interactions that I’ve had with people who are more senior to me and smarter and more experienced. I would say that it’s everything. The whole approach that I have at work now is a result of an amalgamation of years of receiving advice from people who had more experience.

There are so many people to whom I’m massively indebted for the things I’ve learned from them, whether in relation to methodology or thinking about data or structuring an argument or presenting research.

Why do you think mentoring is valuable to young people?

Well, I think with certain things there is a trick to doing things in the right way, and I wish that I had known that when I was younger, like the importance of time management. I think that you can learn that stuff by talking to other people who have been through it already. Another big part of my job is doing briefings to the various sized audiences, sometimes very small, sometimes hundreds of people at a time.

The importance of public speaking and presentation skills is a critical skill to have. I think that the reason this particular programme appealed to me was the fact that I saw it as an opportunity to talk with young people and get them to do an informal knowledge sharing to an audience of me which isn’t a formal presentation or anything like that.

Getting practice on a week in week out basis, talking about stuff that they learned the previous week or things they found difficult or assignments that they’ve completed or approaches they took towards doing specific things. I feel that could hopefully go some way towards helping them generally in the delivery of presentations and speaking to audiences and comparing ideas.

What have you gained from volunteering with GT scholars?

It has been such an eye-opening experience as to how applied young people are today. Speaking to the mentees I have had regarding their experiences and the challenges they faced with regards to Covid and how they’ve tried to overcome them. All of that has been a really interesting experience for me. 

I hope that the conversations that we’ve had have been even a tiny bit useful for either of them because it’s a challenging time that young people are having to live through today for all sorts of reasons.

What part of the volunteering process have you found the most fulfilling?

The most satisfying thing has been, in both cases, initially that first conversation being quite a difficult interaction, one where neither of us knows the other and don’t know anything about each other. But going from that, having a regular conversation where you know the other person, know your mentee and know what they’re doing and can have a normal chat about what’s going on. I guess the building of familiarity and the normalising of the conversations is, I think, a nice thing, and that’s why I have opted for doing shorter calls more regularly than longer ones.

What do you think is the most important skill in being a volunteer mentor?

I think probably time management, having the regular spot each week and also having regular communication with my mentee.

Is there anything you’d like to add about volunteering with GT Scholars or something that you would like possible volunteers to know?

The programme is really good. It seems to me like something well worth giving a bit of time to support each week. A couple of hours every month isn’t a big thing to take out of your work schedule. I guess that’s something to keep in mind, to get involved doesn’t mean that suddenly you have a really big drain on time.

I encourage other people not to be deterred by worrying about the meetings taking too much because it is useful. You can get a lot done in a conversation or series of conversations.

Volunteer Spotlight – Once you reach your potential, then you can exceed your potential!

Volunteer Spotlight – Once you reach your potential, then you can exceed your potential!

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

Can you tell us why you decided to volunteer with GT scholars?

I decided to volunteer with GT Scholars because I felt that my background in teaching could help students who are struggling with school work. So I felt I had something to offer.

Is that why you decided to volunteer in general? Have you volunteered before?

No, I haven’t volunteered before. Yes, that is why I decided to volunteer with GT Scholars.

Can you tell me a little bit about you and what got you to where you are today?

Well, as I said, I have some sort of background in teaching, and I realised there are lots of people out there who need help with teaching. And because I know lots of things to do with English, I thought I could help with GT scholars.

And have you ever had a mentor or a tutor before?

When I was in University, I had a mentor and a tutor. And that experience of having a mentor and a tutor in University, which helped me through my course, made me realise just how important it is to have a personal mentor and a tutor for educational purposes.

What did you gain from having the mentor and the tutor?

Well, just like in school, when you have lessons and you’re noting down things or things that you find difficult or things you find embarrassed to talk about in public before other students. You can have a mentor and a tutor, as I did in the University, that you could bring up with things that you found difficult or things that you’re just, as it were, perhaps maybe too embarrassed to say you’re struggling with and that personal connection that you form with a tutor helps you improve not only your personal confidence, because that’s an important thing that you help students personal confidence, but you also help their educational confidence. They’re able to understand things more clearly.

How important do you think the support has been from the mentor and the tutor in getting you to where you are today?

Well, it’s great to support, first of all, the self-belief that you have; a self-belief in the classroom when you don’t understand things and you continue not to understand things or find things too difficult, you lose self-belief. The mentor gives you that self-belief because you begin to understand things. You understand, they’re not so hard, and it’s not beyond you. And ultimately, I think the tutor or mentor helps you reach your potential, both as an individual and also educationally. Once you reach your potential, then you can exceed your potential. So, a tutor is very very important

Why do you think tutoring is valuable to young people? 

I would say one of the principal values of tutoring is learning how to communicate your difficulties beyond “I don’t understand” or “it’s too difficult”. It also helps the students focus on what they find difficult. So they learn how to focus on the bits they find difficult, on the bits they don’t understand. And that’s the benefit of tutoring is that a student begins to look at themselves as a learner more than they have a tendency to look at them, learning things. They look at themselves. 

They understand what they’re good at, what they’re bad at. They understand how they think. It teaches them how to think. We tend to think that thinking comes naturally and it does, of course, but there’s a way to think and better ways to think. I think all the skills it teaches you, all of those the cognitive skills that you need, and it teaches you to examine your own self cognitively. And that is an important thing about tutoring.

What have you gained from volunteering with GT Scholars?

My principal gain from tutoring with GT Scholars is the personal satisfaction of having a pupil come to me with disbelief in themselves and an array of difficulties that they think are beyond them. And then at the end of the tutorial, not only understanding how to deal with those educational difficulties but equally understanding how to process information and how to think about information and then how to do school work. It’s that personal satisfaction of having someone who doesn’t feel, they feel that school is not for them. It’s not their place. And to come out thinking that school is for them, it is their place. Learning is their place. And in some cases, having students have their horizons expanded rather than just closed horizons. Those are the things I’ve got from volunteering.

What part of the entire volunteering process have you found the most fulfilling? 

I think the most fulfilling thing is helping with their English literature score. That’s always fulfilling because you can really bring out the flavour of literature and poetry to people and enhance their understanding of poetry. That’s one thing. And also teaching students grammar and punctuation. Because when you say grammar and punctuation It’s like Kryptonite to most students. They get scared, they panic. But when you can explain it to them and then it makes sense to them. Once it makes sense, then they can make sense of their own writing and how to write.

So those are the two things I’ve gained, exposing students to literature and understanding just how interesting and important it is, and equally exposing them to understanding grammar and punctuation.

What do you think the most important skill is to be a volunteer tutor?

I think the most important skill is being a volunteer person, you have to want to help. It’s a willingness and a desire to help people and particularly young people. And that is the most important skill you need. I think once you have that willingness to do it, any work that you have to do will propel you to do that. It’s willingness. I would say willingness.

And then is there anything else you’d like to add about your time as a volunteer at GT Scholars? 

Yes. I would just say to other people who want to volunteer with GT scholars. It’s only 1 hour every week, so it’s not a great amount of time and you can interact with students, many of whom I’ve come across do want to learn, they just need some guidance on how to learn. And there is a deep satisfaction that you get when you turn students around and they become self-motivated learners.

Volunteer Spotlight – Tutoring helps to overcome obstacles, and it gives individual attention, which is sometimes actually what’s needed!

Volunteer Spotlight – Tutoring helps to overcome obstacles, and it gives individual attention, which is sometimes actually what’s needed!

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

Why did you decide to volunteer?

When it came to Covid, I was worried about my job security, so I started looking into tutoring as an alternative. I thought let’s get up to speed with what I need to do to tutor. It could be an option for me if It materialised that I didn’t have job security. I got all of the GCSE revision guides and student books to get my head back to where I needed to be to think about tutoring chemistry and physics. 

When it became apparent that my job was secure, I thought I’m not going to waste that time and effort I’ve put in. I decided to find somewhere I could use it. I did some Googling and I found GT Scholars and decided that I will try and help somebody and support somebody who needs it and hopefully help them with their long term goal by tutoring them. So that’s how it all came about!

Tell me a little bit about you and what got you to where you are today, with regards to tutoring and your job in general?

So many years ago, I did my degree in animal science. As a child, I lived in the country and I was surrounded by nature and I was always outside turning stones over and seeing what I could find or sketching birds – I knew all of the bird species. I took my GCSE’s in school and I took my A levels and then I didn’t really know what I wanted to do or which direction to turn. I had no main focus, so I just got a job in a call centre. 

I worked in a call centre for several years, but it wasn’t really hitting the spots I wanted it to hit in regards to where I wanted to be. And so I actually went to University much later. I didn’t study until I was 32, actually. So I graduated when I was 35, and since then I’ve been in Zoo education. 

I’ve worked in zoos as a keeper originally and then followed on in the line of the Zoo education. For the last eight years, I’ve been working for an organisation called Zoolab,  we’ve been operating for over 20 years, and we go out to schools with invertebrates and vertebrates and teach national curriculum-based topics, anything from reception class right through to Universities.

You can be on your knees with three to five-year-olds right and then in the afternoon presenting to 20-year-olds. You have to change the style of your delivery to make the presentation appropriate to your audience. 

So during your time at University and at school, have you ever had a mentor or a tutor and did you find it useful? And what did you gain from it?

This is what I love about the GT Scholars idea. When I was at school, I don’t recall so many options available. We did have choices when I took my A levels. It was very much about going to University, but I don’t remember talks about doing things other than University. I don’t recall all the mentoring and guidance so much. 

I just think it’s so important because it’s a crucial turning point towards a path that you’re pursuing for the rest of your life. That path could take you to a career that you love, or it could take you to a career that perhaps isn’t really where you want it to be. Having that additional one-on-one time in the class environment, I think, is so beneficial. It’s extra guidance that as a teenager stepping out into the big wide world is really beneficial. 

There’s a lot going on when you are a teenager and you can feel quite vulnerable. So I think any guidance and support is so important and beneficial, especially for families that don’t have additional support and families from disadvantaged backgrounds. So this is why I really welcomed volunteering for GT Scholars because mentoring and guidance is very important.

Do you think tutoring is valuable to young people?

I think it’s great for self-confidence. I’ve noticed that with my own scholar. One lesson a couple of weeks ago, he actually said to me ‘We’re doing a topic in class that we’ve been doing in our tutoring sessions and I knew what they were going to say. I knew that was the formula. The fact that he knew something and was slightly ahead of the game in this particular topic really motivated him. I think that’s self-motivating because you suddenly feel ahead, which perhaps he hasn’t felt before.

I think there are so many advantages. There’s the potential to improve your work and planning and study habits because you are given homework and expected to work with the technology that interacts with the tutor.  It’s a good learning experience, people in a class of 35 at school often have different levels of learning and different methods that don’t suit everyone. One on one time allows a student to look at a topic that they may not have understood in class and break it down with the tutor by using a method of tutoring that suits that individual. 

Tutoring helps to overcome those obstacles, and it gives individual attention, which is sometimes actually what’s needed. Some people work better by learning in small groups or individually rather than in a big class. I can say to my scholar, Do you have anything you are struggling with within the school that you want to bring to me? Are there any topics you want to bring to me rather than me directing the study? It encourages self-directed learning as well.

And what is the biggest thing that you’ve gained from volunteering with GT scholars?

So much! Really, I’ve had to learn!! The education that I do day-to-day is in groups. But very few times I’ve done one-on-one sessions, so I’ve had to understand different methods of learning, and I’ve had to be patient. It certainly allows you to think about being a bit more patient. There are weeks where my scholar perhaps hasn’t been punctual or he hasn’t attempted his homework and there are weeks he’s been amazing.

It’s about being patient and diplomatic with it, having an understanding that every two students are different and will learn differently. I’ve enjoyed the whole learning experience about tutoring, seeing how it works, and what doesn’t work. 

Tell us about your experience with your scholar

I think as time has gone on, I’ve gotten to know my scholar well. I know what he likes, he likes basketball and because of this, I try to make our sessions inspiring and fun at the same time. When we do our recap at the beginning of each week on our online Jamboard, I have got a big picture of Michael Jordan, the basketball player, and I’ve got six Post It notes on the screen. My Scholar has to answer those questions, if he gets them correct then he gets a digital slam dunk on the screen.

That’s our fun recap at the beginning to just bring ourselves back to speed where we were the previous week. We will then learn a new topic.  I will get my Scholar to tell me some cool facts about Michael Jordan. I think it’s important to make the sessions fun and engaging to make your scholar enjoy learning. 

So what do you think are the most important skills for a volunteer to have?

Patience and adaptability! Sometimes you need to adapt to last-minute changes that may happen, so being adaptable and patient is key. I think a sense of humour is important too. If you can make your sessions more engaging, the scholars remember those sessions.

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 – I think for your own personal growth and just your own goals, it’s helped me unlock different areas of my brain and different areas of my personality that maybe I hadn’t seen in a while.

Volunteer Spotlight – I think for your own personal growth and just your own goals, it’s helped me unlock different areas of my brain and different areas of my personality that maybe I hadn’t seen in a while.

Volunteer spotlight Volunteers What's new?

In our latest volunteer spotlight interview series, we had the chance to sit down with Sophie, an English tutor with GT Scholars. Sophie talks about how the programme has had a positive impact on her and why it is a good opportunity for anyone who would like to volunteer with us.

Can you tell me a little bit about you and what got you to where you are  today?

I graduated with a degree in law from the Uni of Kent in July 2020, and my plan was, initially, to go on and then do a Masters. But then I rethought my plan and decided to take a gap year instead and try to gain a bit more life experience. I think coupled with the pandemic, I needed a little bit of time to figure out exactly what I wanted to do.

I’ve been volunteering with GT Scholars since October now, which feels like a very long time ago, and also been doing some activities in schools along the way, too. Most recently then, I actually secured my first “proper job” working for a legal consulting company. I’m just excited to start working life, I think.

What made you decide to become a volunteer with GT Scholars?

I did some tutoring in the past and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In light of the pandemic, I knew the detrimental impact it’s having on education, and I thought I would try to offer my services somewhere to do with education. So I’d done English tutoring in the past and I’d done it at my school, every Saturday they used to run a Saturday school. That’s when I thought there must be an organisation that does this or runs these services for free for people who are interested in boosting their confidence in their learning or who just want a little bit of extra help.

And that’s when I found GT Scholars and I saw the work you’ve been doing. And I knew that I had to get involved.

What do you enjoy most about tutoring?

What I enjoy the most is when you are when you’re doing the tutoring and if you’re explaining a concept or a technique and then seeing the student understand that concept and being able to apply it to an exam question, I think seeing that, it gives you the reassurance that you know what you’re doing and it’s working.

But then it equally gives you that sense of pride that the student is able to understand the materials and answer the question in full. That’s a really rewarding part of the experience is to see the impact that it’s having, and I think that’s the part that I enjoy the most 

In terms of goals for your scholar, what goals have you helped them to achieve?

I think with both of my scholars that I’ve had so far, they’ve both been working at a higher level than maybe you would expect for someone who wants to get involved in being tutored. And I think the general consensus was just feeling more confident and self-assured in their answers. So it might not necessarily be that they want to get a 9 in their GCSEs because, you know, sometimes aiming for that target, if you don’t reach it, it can be a bit disheartening.

The general view is that feeling more confident in all variations of the questions and I think by going through different types of exam questions and practising in the sessions, I think it boosted their confidence and sort of helped them push them towards their goals of feeling like they can do any question that comes at them. 

When you look at your scholars since October last year and you look at the challenges that they had to face, especially during lockdown and the pandemic and, you know, with school being off and on all the time. What challenges have you helped your scholars to overcome?

With my first scholar, which was when I first started in October, I think there was a lot of up and down with schools going in and out of lockdown, and obviously that then going hand in hand with the fact that the schools being closed and students were going ill or having to self isolate for two weeks at a time. So I think the learning process was very disjointed for a lot of children, not just the scholars that I tutored.

I think trying to remain within sort of an academic mindset and remembering that even though you’re not in school for a few weeks or months at a time, still trying to stay in that school mind frame. And I think that proves sometimes to be quite difficult. I think the adjustment from not being in school since mid-March to then going back to school in September. I think especially with my first scholar, the adjustment was quite a shock to the system.

Trying to ease her into it without giving her too much homework and other resources to be looking at and just being realistic at the same time and thinking that this is someone who hasn’t been in an actual school environment for six months, so equally trying not to overwhelm her and just giving her what she can cope with. 

It has been so challenging for scholars, for parents, for teachers and tutors. And I’m sure during the last year as a tutor, you may have faced challenges. If so, have you faced any challenges during your tutoring, with GT Scholars, and if you did, how did you overcome these challenges?

I think maybe the biggest challenge for me was that when I’ve done tutoring before, I’ve never used technology. It’s always been in person. I think this set up of doing everything online is great because obviously we are not wasting paper. And you don’t have to worry about travelling to a location, but then at the same time getting to grips with different technology that you need to use. And I mean, even Zoom, I had never used Zoom before.

I think it was something you had to accommodate yourself with quite quickly in order to let the sessions run smoothly. And also, I think that overcoming that is just finding the technology, resources and the materials that work for you. Let’s say the online whiteboard, if you found that that didn’t really work for your scholar, perhaps doing a Word document or PowerPoint or a poster, or something that you can use as a visual aid that best suits the needs of your scholar. 

Can you tell me why you think tutoring is valuable to young people? 

I think the main reason I would say, as I mentioned before, is building self-confidence and sort of setting milestones for your own personal growth. A lot of people think that tutoring is only about boosting attainment, but I think it’s a lot more than that in a lot of circumstances. You might have some students that will come to you who are working at beyond a four or five level, so they are passing in their subject, but it’s not about that. They still want to try to aim higher or they want to feel more confident in a variety of questions. 

I think the feeling that a student can experience from understanding a topic or getting a question correct can far exceed that feeling of achieving an A* sometimes. It gives that student the belief that they can keep going and that their hard work, even though perhaps they’re not achieving the A*, is still being rewarded.

What do you think is the most important skill a tutor should have?

I think there are a lot of skills that would go hand in hand, I think it goes without saying that you need to have good communication skills and you need to be able to effectively get across your point. More than that, it would be being empathetic and equally being positive because what I’ve worked out for myself in doing tutoring before, it’s very easy to assume that the way that one person understands something is the same way that someone else will And that’s not always the case. So it’s important to adapt your learning style, or the way that you communicate to fit the person that you’re tutoring. 

Remembering that everyone is different and learns in their own way, will help tremendously as a tutor and then equally encouraging them when they’re confused or stuck on a question will give them the added security of knowing that if they do make a mistake, that it’s OK and then we can work on an answer together and it’s not the end of the world if you didn’t understand it on the first try.

How important has support been in getting you to where you are today? 

I think support has been pivotal to getting me where I am today. I think sometimes we forget along our own personal journeys what the role is that other people play in that. So whether this be in an academic sense from school or university or then a more personal sense, if it’s friends or family, it’s reassuring to know that you have someone looking out for you, watching over you when you embark on something new and being there for you during maybe the more difficult times and then the more high points, so having someone in your corner, is really important in celebrating your wins and then equally commiserating your losses and just sort of standing there as being like a little bit of a safety net and knowing that you just have someone there that has your best interests at heart.

In terms of volunteering, what have you gained from volunteering with GT Scholars?

I think volunteering over the last nine months, I’ve spoken a lot about self-confidence and reassurance and things like that, I think I’ve actually gained more confidence in myself and more self-assurance and then equally better communication skills as I’ve had to adapt my style of teaching depending on the scholar, like I said before, it is easy to assume that one person will understand the concept in the same way as another. So adjusting my approach and taking a step back and then evaluating my explanation before then re-explaining, I think this has been really valuable for me. It’s maybe not that they’ve not understood it, it’s just because of the way that I’ve explained it. With technology, I think this has also helped me with my creative side.

I think when we get older we lose touch with our creative side quite a lot. And it’s a shame because when we were younger, we would play with different toys and we expose ourselves to that side of our brain that is engaged a lot more than when we are much older. So making PowerPoints and drafting lessons or using more engaging formats for the sessions, I think has used an area of my brain again and made me approach things in a more hands on way. I haven’t done that in a very long time so I think that’s been really nice. 

What was your overall experience tutoring with GT Scholars? 

I think it’s been a really positive experience, when I first stumbled across GT scholars, I think I was first drawn in by the principle behind the organisation. It’s always natural to assume that if someone wants to be tutored or rather maybe needs to be tutored, it’s because they’re not passing or they’re not achieving a certain grade in a subject. Whereas I think the motto behind GT Scholars is in the  “It doesn’t matter if someone’s working at a C grade, if they want to get A, B, and they might be forgotten about because they are passing. It doesn’t exclude them from coming onto the programme”. A lot of other tutoring companies or just private tutors, that’s what they lack, that vision that if you were in their shoes and you’re passing you don’t have to do anything else in order to get the grades that society deems is OK to achieve. But for your personal growth, you would be pleased with yourself if you could do better than that. 

Being with G.T. scholars, as I said before, the two scholars I’ve had have been working way above a passing grade and it’s just I think it’s really nice to see that they want to still push themselves to do even better than they already are because in their schools eyes or maybe in their parents eyes, they’re already doing way above what the school would necessarily Deem them as being capable of. That’s been really eye opening. It’s really shown me that tutoring is not just for those small groups of people that are not doing as well.  

Would you recommend becoming a tutor with Gt Scholars, and if so, why would you recommend it?

I would recommend becoming a tutor, and I think one of the reasons which I’ve already mentioned is, again, because the the motto behind it is that you’re not going to exclude someone just because maybe their own personal goals are not what a tutor would deem as a low enough grade as being worthy of having a tutor. So because GT Scholars allows a far greater range of students with all different working levels onto the programme, it really means that no matter what your target is, you can be accepted onto the programme.

Secondly, I think for your own personal growth and just your own goals, it’s helped me unlock different areas of my brain in different areas of my personality that maybe I hadn’t seen in a while. So for those people who maybe find themselves with a few extra hours on their hands or they’d like to give back in some way, what better area to give back than education? Because the people that we would be tutoring and the people that we are engaging with now are the future. I think helping them in any way they can to achieve their dreams will only benefit everyone in the long run. Helping those young people who have those aspirations can only be a positive thing.

What would you like to say to anyone thinking about volunteering with GT Scholars? 

I would say just apply and it can’t hurt to apply. If you don’t apply, then you’ll never know. I think initially when I applied, I wasn’t sure if maybe you’d be oversubscribed, because when I applied it was the middle of the pandemic. I thought maybe everyone’s got the same idea and I didn’t know whether that would pan out, but luckily it did. And here we are. So I think if anyone’s in a similar position, they should just apply.

And I don’t think that anyone would regret it because you’re doing a great thing for someone who wants to benefit themselves, whether that be through a career goal and they’d like to be mentored and they’ve got a specific career path in mind, or whether that be they’d like to improve their grades in a specific subject. There’s a really great principle and a good heart behind the organisation. I don’t think you’d regret volunteering at all. In fact, I think you thoroughly enjoy 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!