Royal Parks 2017

Lucie Collins, Year 5 London Project Leader, talks about what character is and the impact it can have on young people and learning.

What’s the most enjoyable part of being a Project Leader? For me, it’s finding different and creative ways to bring character into my sessions.

So what is character?

Jubilee Centre defines it as educational activities that help young people develop positive personal strengths. At ReachOut we concentrate on the character strengths of fairness, self-control, good judgement and staying power.

How character can be used

Back in September, to kick off the project, the girls each decorated a ‘hand’ made of card and listed a character strength on each finger. Each week, they put a star on the finger of the character strength they feel they have used most, which has been a great way for them to reflect and visually see how they are using character strengths and to recognise those which could be used more.

To inspire the girls on using character strengths in their day to day lives, I found a series of children’s books called ‘Little People, Big Dreams’. Each book is a beautifully illustrated biography of a woman that has made a difference in the world, telling of the obstacles she had to face, but ultimately overcame, to achieve something.

As my group love maths and science, I chose the book about Marie Curie where we discussed which character strengths they thought she used at different points in her life. The mentors helped the girls write out their ideas to create a poster, along with examples of when they had used character strengths in their own lives.

The impact of character

Having real-life examples made the activity more relatable and helped them to further understand the importance of using character. After reading the book, they were able to think of situations when they had used a character strength in different parts of their lives, not just related to school or the ReachOut sessions.

Teaching character is invaluable not just for the girls, but for me also. Each week I am astounded by the insight the girls already have into life and the responsibility they are taking upon themselves for their attainment, both academically and in their confidence, by focusing on character. The last page of the book relayed how there are many things to learn in life, and many ways to help others. With hard work, commitment and resilience, we can make a change in our own lives as well as others. Giving these girls the belief and confidence that they have the potential to achieve great things in their life is one important part of ReachOut, but week after week I see that character is what is giving them the skills to not just have big dreams, but to follow them too.

If you’re interested in becoming a Project Leader like Lucie, sign up on our website

For more character inspired activities, follow Lucie on Instagram: @lucieslightbulb

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“At first, I was really hesitant to take on the Project Leader role, despite having mentored with ReachOut. However, with the support of the team I’ve really developed my skills. For example, at the Mentee Graduation, I stood up in front of 200 people and presented an award which is something I would never ever have been able to have done before, and isn’t an opportunity I could gain in my other situations.”

Amy McCutcheon, Project Leader at ReachOut Academy, Dean Trust Ardwick, Manchester.

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“Being able to spend the summer working at Rede Partners, was an amazing experience. Whether it was working in HR or Finance, I learned so much about the world of private equity, made great connections with fantastic people and I got to learn first-hand what it would be like to work there! I really believe that I can go onto build the career I want now I’ve been a part for a workplace for real”

Victor Adekunle, 18 years old, ReachOut Ambassador, London

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“When I first my mentee, she was very reluctant to participate in the sessions. Now, I see a completely different person! Her confidence has grown and she is happy to join in! She still has some self-doubt when it comes to academic work, but that’s what I hope to help her overcome, because she is a very bright person!

Through mentoring, I’ve learnt I’m a lot more patient than I realised. There will be days where she refuses to participate and those are the days that I really see the importance of the character strengths, for both the mentees and the mentors. It also makes it easier for the mentee to understand the character strengths, when I use them myself”

Myrtle, ReachOut Club mentor at Tufnell Primary School, London

CASE STUDY 01

“There are more distractions than ever outside of school, and the commitment of our students to attend ReachOut sessions is testament to the value they place on the relationships they foster there, and the challenge and enjoyment they provide.

ReachOut’s focus on communication skills and character development has become an important aspect of our provision of support for these students. The opportunity to relate to a positive role- model other than their usual teachers is key to the programme’s impact, and the evidence of this has been seen in the students’ attendance, resilience and to their overall progress across all the subjects in the school.”

Thomas Janvrin, Assistant Vice Principal at the Petchey Academy London