Our 5 Star Futures programme offers opportunities to students that they may not normally get to experience as part of their school studies. I felt strongly about taking the time and making the effort to support this initiative.
I'm so glad that I did, I didn't realise just how rewarding it would be for me and what an impact it would have on the students involved.
I will admit that before the first session I was involved in coaching I think I was more nervous that any of the students! I wasn't sure what I had to offer them, if anything, but the format of the programme is so cleverly designed around group exercises with no preparation required that everybody finds themselves in the same boat and everybody who has participated has realised how much they do have to offer to each other, both coaches and students alike.
We all have unique knowledge and experiences no matter who we are, where we come from and what we do, and the value in this is realised when you are prepared to share this with others.
The sessions do tend to start a bit quietly, but as everyone settles in you hear the chat and the buzz slowly building up, and that's when the magic happens.
Key to the programme in my opinion is the breaking down of barriers as this in itself raises aspirations by dissolving any perception of "them and us". The students learn that all of the people working at the huge shiny machine that is DWF is just like them, we are all people. We can all relate to each other, we all have valid stories to share and we are all proud of our achievements (even if we need some help with recognising them sometimes)!
The difference over the course of the programme is astounding, from the first session where everybody is terrified to stand up and introduce themselves to the final session where the students seem like they could hold their own at a professional networking event!
By the end of the final session in the Glasgow programme all of the students can say that they have been interviewed by a partner from an international law firm (and lived to tell the tale!) which is a fantastic experience and a major confidence boost for them. At our last session one of the girls that I had to practically drag into the interview room as she was so nervous absolutely aced her interview, which she would never have believed she could so had she not been given the opportunity to prove otherwise.
We now have two graduates of the programme who are actively pursuing a career in law, one with conditional offers to study law at university.
Our partner school Govan High is one of the most improved schools in Glasgow this year based on the most recent exam tables having seen 33 per cent of leavers gaining three or more Highers - up from 18 per cent last year. The head teacher puts this largely down to hard work undertaken to improve the ethos of the school and raise aspirations for the students.
It is great to see the school improvements and we are delighted to be working with them at this exciting time.