London Zoo visit for AQA Unlocking Potential graduates

Friday 9 Jul 2021

Students celebrated completing the life-changing AQA Unlocking Potential mentoring programme with a visit to ZSL London Zoo.

The young people met with AQA and their athlete mentors from the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust amongst lions, tigers, penguins and a whole host of other wildlife, to receive their certificates as well as a £30 Amazon gift voucher each.

The intention had been to host a full celebration event at the zoo, but due to the delay in lifting of Covid restrictions we had to rethink our plans. However, when we explained the situation the team at ZSL London Zoo, who connect thousands of schoolchildren to wildlife every year through their zoos, they were only too happy to help.

Those schools that were able to travel were offered a day out at the zoo, where they could meet with their athlete mentors and receive their certificate and voucher, and then spend the rest of the day exploring the 36 acre Zoo and learning about the valuable work ZSL do working to create a world where wildlife thrives. The schools that couldn’t make it to the Zoo had their certificates and vouchers sent to them directly and arranged their own mini-celebrations with their athletes.

AQA Unlocking Potential is a mentoring programme aimed at 11–19 year olds, which pairs young people with an elite athlete mentor from the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust for eight months. Over this time they work to develop their confidence, discover and develop their strengths and make the most of their potential. They also plan and deliver a social action project in their local community.

Speaking about the programme, James Kirton, athlete mentor and former team GB Olympic swimmer, said:

“Despite the restrictions caused by COVIID, the AQA Unlocking Potential programme has been a great success for another year and a day out like this is a great experience and reward for those young people.

“We’ve seen some amazing social action projects this year covering topics as diverse as disability awareness, sexual abuse and supporting local foodbanks, all thought up and delivered by the students.

“On individual levels, students have really come out of their shells and gained confidence and leadership skills, and are now ready to move on to the next stage of their lives with a sense of purpose.”

Claire Filippo, a teacher at Campsmount Academy in Doncaster, said:

"AQA Unlocking Potential is amazing. Working with an athlete mentor on a one to one basis has helped these young people build and develop confidence in their own abilities which has been invaluable, especially during COVID, and has really helped the students to flourish at this difficult time.

"Their social action project focused on the impact of the pandemic on fellow students. Understanding that many people are facing adversity and challenges, they developed a transition support package to ensure new students at our school felt safe and secure, which was really helpful to those young people joining.

"Its been great to be able to celebrate their achievement with a visit to London Zoo. These students had never really left their home town before so showing them the wonders of the zoo and London is a fantastic experience that will stay with them for life."