Students and teachers from across the country attended AQA’s Guildford and Manchester sites earlier this month for the launch of AQA Unlocking Potential.
AQA Unlocking Potential is a mentoring programme run in partnership with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. The programme, led by world-class athletes, is for students aged 14–19 years and is targeted at young people facing challenging personal circumstances whose teachers believe would benefit considerably from additional support.
The 2017/18 programme finally got underway with a day of activity at AQA’s main sites in Guildford and Manchester. The events were run by the athletes and staff from the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, ably assisted by a team of willing AQA volunteers.
The day began with a short presentation for the students and teachers by James Bajcer from the Trust and a video message from AQA’s Chief Executive Toby Salt. This was followed by a range of group activity led by the athlete mentors, designed to get the students engaging with each other and the AQA volunteers right from the start.
In the afternoon session, the students got to sit down with their mentors and hear more about how the challenges they have faced in their own careers, have helped them to overcome adversity and deal with difficult situations.
Commenting on this years’ launch Kate Haywood, Former elite swimmer and Athlete Team Leader at Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, said:
“It was brilliant to meet students on this year’s programme for the first time and get to understand their backgrounds and some of the challenges they’ve faced in their lives.
“I know first-hand that AQA Unlocking Potential has the ability to transform lives and I can’t wait to start working with students in their schools and seeing the progress they make over the next eight months.”
Sarah Caldwell from Queen Alexandra College in Birmingham, a national specialist charity for people with disabilities added:
“Many of our students struggle with confidence and engaging with others due to their disabilities and being part of AQA Unlocking Potential launch event was something new and nerve racking for them.
"But they were completely buzzing on the journey home; about the event, their mentor, what they enjoyed, what they are looking forward to over the coming months and discussing their ideas for their social action projects.
“It was a great experience and very exciting. They got a lot from meeting and working with new people and feeling as though they are part of something special.”
The day’s activities also had a big impact on the AQA volunteers who were equally moved by the young people they met.
Manchester Volunteer Steve Kenny, Head of Curriculum for Computer Science and ICT, said:
“I had a great time and the young people were a credit to themselves and their schools and really made for a fun filled day.
“I really got a great deal from the day; it was nice to work with young people and has been one of my most enjoyable days in all my time at AQA.”
Guilford Volunteer Gulfem Wormald, an Events Planner, said:
“It was amazing to see how the students’ confidence rocketed as they started to achieve better results in the group activities.
“A boost in confidence could be all they need to help them achieve in life. To think that we as volunteers can make even the tiniest contribution to that process is very rewarding.”
The students will be on their own journey over the next eight months, where they will receive regular mentoring from their athletes and work towards a community social action project.