Pippa is a Trainee Solicitor working for Bates Wells Braithwaite in the City. She has been volunteering at a project at Wapping High School for the past academic year, and she'd like to share her story with you...

What made you decide to volunteer with ReachOut?

I wanted to give back to my local community and I’m passionate about improving opportunities for young people like those ReachOut supports. I liked the idea of giving academic support to those who might not ordinarily be able to get that. Lots of the students are extremely bright and really ambitious so I think it’s really important for them to have role models who can raise their aspirations – to help them realise the range of jobs out there and that those jobs are completely accessible to them.

What has your mentoring experience been like?

There were only a few mentors at the first session, and when I sat down in a circle of chairs, amid what felt like a sea of 11-13 year old boys, I felt pretty nervous! The nerves disappeared after the first few minutes and I realised that apart from anything else, this was going to be really, really good fun – the young people say the most hilarious things and the activities really bring out their sense of humour!  

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my mentee and the whole group, it’s been brilliant. Plus there’s nothing like playing games and trying desperately to remember how to do long division to get you out of “work-mode” after a long day.

What have been the most rewarding aspects of working with young people and volunteering with ReachOut? 

The best thing is seeing the students grow and improve. My mentee lacked confidence at the start of the project however it has increased so much and his personality has really started shining through – he’s great, very funny - and he’s so confident with me and with the group now.

It’s also been really great to see the progress in the other young people and how they interact as a group. The young people who struggled to concentrate at the start have improved so much in their attitude and academic confidence - they try every task now, rather than assuming they can’t do it.

Is there anything you found challenging/difficult in your mentoring role? 

Regular attendance has been the main challenge – for me as well as my mentee! My mentee lives far from school so doesn’t always attend and for me, leaving work early every week can be challenging.

I do think it’s good to challenge yourself to stick to a commitment like this every week alongside work - I’m sure it’ll come in handy if I ever have kids to pick up from school or other non-work responsibilities!

Do you think that volunteering has helped you develop new skills? 

It’s definitely developed my skills of working with young people – I’ve learned to be patient, provide encouragement and build their confidence, as well as learning about the latest YouTube stars and improving my terrible maths!

Skills gained from creating balloon chairs, building structures out of pasta and marshmallows and playing elephant football are underrated in the world of work, but great fun nonetheless – the whole experience has definitely built my confidence and pushed me outside my comfort zone!

If you'd like to mentor like Pippa, click here.