Kimberly is a postgraduate student at The University of Manchester. After studying an Actuarial Science degree back home in Jamaica, Kimberly came to Manchester on the Chevening scholarship to study for a Masters in Mathematical Finance. She currently mentors on both a ReachOut Club Project AND a ReachOut Academy Project and so has worked with two different mentees throughout the year. She was also recently named “Outstanding Mentor of the Year” due to her commitment to ReachOut and for going above and beyond what is expected as a mentor. Kimberly chats to Volunteer Officer Becky about her ReachOut experience this year…

How have you found Manchester so far?

It’s so cold! Even when everyone else here is wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I’m still wearing a sweater! It’s great though, Manchester is definitely my place.

Why did you choose to become a mentor?

One of my goals while I was on my scholarship was to tackle the distaste young people have towards Mathematics. Back home in my country, numerical literacy is a real issue so this is something I wanted to get more involved in in the UK. I’ve mentored students 1:1 since I was in high school so this matched with what ReachOut do and seemed like the perfect opportunity to give something back to my community.

Why do you think the 1:1 mentoring element is so important?

What I’ve witnessed through my mentoring experiences is that students learn at such different paces. By putting them all together in a group and expecting them all to learn at the same speed often makes some students really scared to ask questions so they stop even trying to understand and make progress. Having a 1:1 mentor builds up a sense of trust, allows the mentees to ask the questions that they would otherwise be embarrassed to ask and develop at their own pace.

 

You volunteer on more than one project so what was it like working with different mentees on each? Have you learnt anything from them?

I have learnt so much from my mentees. They’ve each taught me different lessons and values that are really important to me.

One of my mentees was very shy when we first met so I learnt how important it was to be patient with her. We had to build up a level of trust and realise our common ground before she’d open up more and then as a result, really get involved in ReachOut.

I have even learnt self-love from one of my mentees! She encouraged me to embrace my natural hair and told me that I should be confident with it!

It’s been brilliant getting to know my mentees and realising the things we have in common. No matter how long it takes, you’ll find that shared interest.

What’s the best activity you’ve done on your projects?

The balloon chair challenge! My Project Leader Lilli organised for the mentees to construct a balloon chair that someone could sit on. My mentee often lacked confidence in situations where she had to give her input but this activity really engaged her. I saw her embody all of the ReachOut character strengths during the task and it was a really proud moment.

Seeing my younger mentee develop in confidence with the academic sessions was also amazing. The ReachOut resources allow the students to consider how they feel about the academic tasks before they start. She would always say she was worried about Maths because she didn’t think she could do it. By the end of the sessions she was always so pleased with her progress.

What skills have you gained through being a mentor?

My time management before ReachOut was super poor. I knew I wanted to give back to my community but I was worried about how I was going to juggle that with my studies, especially on such an intense course. Making the time for ReachOut was such a benefit to me. At the ReachOut Club, playing games with the mentees was such a brilliant way to relax my mind, away from cramming and revising. Dedicating just that short amount of time to something other than my work definitely allowed me to maximise the rest of my time.

Why should other people become mentors?

Working with children and young people and giving back to the community makes you a better person. It’s good for your mind and yourself and you feel refreshed after spending time with your mentees. It’s a great opportunity!

 

Does Kimberly’s story inspire you to become a mentor too? We’re looking for mentors to start in September for the new academic year. Click here to sign up!