Every time I was asked this question, my answer would undoubtedly change drastically. From fashion designer to dancer, the possibilities were endless. Somewhere along the way, the question changed to “What are your career aspirations?” – that’s when our childhoods ended. The future entailed setting appropriate goals with plans made to achieve them.
Many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds would have been forced to grow up a lot faster. Whether it is because they have caring responsibilities or work part-time to contribute to their household income, they tend to focus on enduring their present challenges rather than thinking about their future. Choosing from endless possibilities is a luxury that not everyone can afford. When it seems like your only option is to go into full-time work at 16 years old, finishing A-levels and going to university truly are privileges.
The severity of the social mobility problem in the UK was brought to my attention when I started volunteering with CoachBright in January this year. The training session introduced the concept of the ‘Postcode Lottery’ – the idea that we have no control over critical factors, like our postcodes, which can determine our success. Simply by being born in certain locations, you can automatically be at a disadvantage. Imagine how different your life might have been if you were born elsewhere, or if you had not attended the schools you went to.
However, no amount of training could ever have prepared me for my first session. As I planned to coach in GCSE Maths, my mind trailed back to the topics I had studied in Year 10/11. When my coachee said they wanted me to go over Pythagoras’ Theorem, I designed a worksheet complete with explanations and examples expecting it to refresh their memory. It turned out that the student’s issue with Pythagoras was rooted far deeper. They didn’t know what squared numbers were. With their GCSEs less than two years away, they struggled with basic multiplication. Having coached 4 students this summer, I found that this was not an exception. It was normal. One student shared how they felt that their teachers prioritised the learning of others, making no effort to provide any extra support. Due to the school closures in the last academic year and further disruptions arising from COVID-19, they have only fallen further behind. No wonder they felt so inhibited.
Hearing their individual stories solidified my determination to help provide the confidence they lacked. I did spend extra time session planning and breaking down every detail, and virtual coaching certainly presents its own challenges when you have to fight with technology, but it is definitely worth it. It is incredibly rewarding to see your coachee finally get through one of their long-term struggles. Their gratitude was overwhelming as, perhaps for the first time in their life, someone believed in them and was pushing them to do better.
At CoachBright, our coaches provide students with the confidence they need to overcome societal barriers to achieve their academic and career goals. The organisation is also incredibly supportive of the personal development of its coaches. It has truly been a pleasure to work in a team of such dedicated and passionate individuals, and I am excited to progress to the role of a Head Coach in this new academic term. If you could also spare an hour a week to change a young person’s life, the CoachBright team would love to have you onboard.
If Divya has inspired you to volunteer, check out one of our other ongoing opportunities or book a one-to-one with David Coles, the Volunteer Centre Manager if you have more questions. And why not follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date with our events and opportunities and read our blog for more volunteering tips and stories.