Katerina’s blog – 5 November 2013

I got the job!

Hope you guys had an amazing Reading Week! I sure did with three days spent catching up on reading and the remaining four visiting a friend in London. As fun as that was, I want to focus on something different for this week’s post.

Remember the assessment centre I went to last week? Well, I got it and now I have the best part-time job in the world!

I will be working as a Mentor for Debate Mate – a charity organisation that allows children from disadvantaged areas the chance to get involved in debating.  Debate Mate targets non-selective state schools in areas of high child poverty and sends university students there to lead after school debating clubs.  The mentors have one session per week with the kids to help them with their debating skills.  We have two regional competitions per year with the winners later moving on to the national finals, which take place in the Houses of Parliament in London and are a great incentive for everyone to work as hard as possible through the year.  The programme is about much more than the debating though – the real aim is to teach these kids that what they have to say is important and that words do have power, to improve their public speaking skills, increase their confidence, critical thinking and teamwork as part of their debating training.

As you can probably guess by now, I am very passionate about what Debate Mate does for a number of reasons.  Firstly, I really believe in what they stand for and in empowering children.  Moreover, my childhood dream was to become a teacher, which is why I first applied for a position with Debate Mate over two years ago (I have been involved with the program for the past two years but since the allocation of mentors to schools is done every year, we still have to go through the assessment process alongside all new applicants).  I mean, imagine getting the chance to be a part-time astronaut while getting your University degree – it is not one to miss, right?  Finally, while I love Manchester and the fact that there are so many young people around, I sometimes miss interacting with the rest of the community and Debate Mate gives me the opportunity to forget at least for an hour a week all the deadlines and university-related problems as you just can’t go into a classroom full of thirty 11-year-olds and not give them your all – they just demand your full attention and you can’t let them down.

Moreover, I found I am way more efficient when I have a part-time job because I tend to procrastinate much less when I know I have to get to work on Wednesday and I just have a day to finish this assignment or that reading.

Finally, many of the kids I mentor have never met a university student and you should hear the way they talk about university – you suddenly realize how lucky you are to be studying in one of the top universities in the UK, doing a degree you enjoy and just being in that environment.

Some of my mentees have told me they find our sessions inspirational as they see they can achieve things and they deserve to have their voices heard. My favourite story came from a 12-year-old boy who went through the programme and came the next year to tell me he made a speech at his mother’s wedding during the summer and thanked me for providing him with the skills and confidence to do that.

But in reality, I think they inspire me much more than I do them!

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