Coventry University student named volunteer mentor of the year in West Midlands

Catherine Simpson profile photo.
Student news

Thursday 25 November 2021

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A Coventry University student has been named volunteer mentor of the year for the West Midlands by City Year UK after mentoring students with autism.

BA (Hons) Sociology student Catherine Simpson worked with the charity as a key worker at Ernesford Grange Community Academy in Binley during the third year of her degree studies, where she supported students all week while also attending leadership development days as part of her professional training.

I’m delighted to be recognised for the work that I did at Ernesford Grange, and I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the pupils and try to make a difference in their lives while also learning and developing professionally. My work entailed meeting with each of my five focus list pupils for weekly one-to-one sessions to catch up on their wellbeing and to see if there were any issues that needed resolving in or outside of school. I also did lesson observations if there was a particular subject that a pupil was struggling with, assisted the specialists working with the pupils, and kept an open dialogue with the pupils’ parents.

Catherine Simpson, final year BA (Hons) Sociology student

In addition, Catherine also assisted with running an allocated classroom – known as The BASE - within the school, that acted as a safe space for pupils with autism and/or attachment difficulties.

This placement was a great opportunity to connect what I’d learnt so far in my BA Sociology degree to real-life situations. A lot of the problems I encountered with my focus list pupils and other pupils who accessed The BASE were linked to social issues that I had analysed in lectures and workshops at university.

The main highlight of her placement was witnessing the personal and academic growth of the pupils she supported and feeling honoured by how they warmed to her and found her approachable for help or just to talk to.

I also appreciated how I had developed from being very quiet at the beginning of my placement in August 2020 to self-assured by the end of July 2021. I learnt that I don’t have to be the loudest person in the room to be powerful, which has helped a lot with my self-esteem. Winning Volunteer Mentor of the Year for the West Midlands was the cherry on top of a fantastic placement year.

City Year UK is an educational empowerment charity that gives young people year-long placements in schools to work as mentors and help break down the many barriers that can come between pupils and their education.