Volunteering with the Role Models Project
Article by the university in 2018
Video made by Community 21 in 2018
Video made by the University of Sussex in 2017
Video made by students in 2016
Role Models Project Facebook page
Role Models Alumni Network facebook group
Emily - firstname.lastname@example.org Role Models Project Coordinator
Natasha - email@example.com Role Models Project Development Manager
Jane - firstname.lastname@example.org Participation and Volunteering Manager
The Role Models Project is an innovative programme that facilitates meaningful engagement between uni students and secondary school students. Our bespoke training equips potential ‘Role Models’ (university students) with the skills and confidence to create and deliver creative and participatory workshops for their younger peers (school pupils aged 12-15). Since 2015, we have worked with over 1,250 young people, delivered 153 inhouse training sessions and 150 workshops across seven local schools.
The project was developed out of students’ desire to offer comprehensive, inclusive and relatable education, around topics not always prioritised in mainstream education (from sex to social media, to body image, to future careers). Students felt that such topics would benefit from an alternative pedagogic approach that focused on listening to young people’s views, empowering them to be active agents in their choices, and building their confidence and self esteem.
A key aspect of our approach involves training sufficient numbers of university students to provide as close to one-on-one ratio with the school pupils, so that workshops can be adapted to meet the needs of every individual. This enables a unique relationship and a space in which young people are encouraged to relate, listen, share, question and think critically about the world around them.
The training programme includes:
Workshops are then created by the Role Models, starting with the question ‘what do you wish you’d known': This allows the programme to be continually evolving, youth-led and responsive.
Each week (for five or six) weeks, there is a workshop development session, run through, workshop delivery (a mix of structured activities and discussions in small groups and 1-1) and a reflection and feedback session.
Through this we aim to provide both university students and secondary school students with:
92% of students said they had gained transferable skills, “solidifying” or “inspiring” their career choices. quoting their experience of the project as "invaluable": "it has helped shaped me who I am now.”
“Being part of the project has been immensely rewarding and is probably one of the best things I've done in my life. The trainings were really useful and I feel like a better person now.”
“I have loved every minute of it, made some life-long friends and feel like I have advanced in my skills as a role model. I feel like I have developed good relationships with the pupils and looked at some really important issues. I have been inspired and am now really considering my career options for the future”
“Great experience, such a valuable project: So many young people are looking for guidance and so many [uni] students are looking for volunteering experience, so the project helps both parties.”
“With university students, the good thing is they’ve either just been through it or they’re still going through the same things that you are. They have an idea [of] what it’s like and what we’re going through.”
“It’s an hour that we can speak to someone and just clear your mind. I always leave in a good mood ... I’ve cleared my mind and asked about things I didn’t know.”
We ask what they gained from the workshops:
“you don't have to be perfect” “not to feel bad about yourself and change the look of your body”
“stereotypes aren’t always true” “don’t feel like you have to be pressured”
“you shouldn’t judge people for how they look” “to be responsible for your own actions”
“how to cope with problems” “to talk to people is easier than keeping it in”
“websites which I can talk to about stuff I’m struggling with” “how to deal with bullying”
“about how you should never give up” “always follow your dreams”
“how to be a better person”
“Role Models enables all students to have a voice and consider their options and choices for real world decisions.”
“One student described program as 'best 6 weeks ever' today"
“The nature of this interaction is impossible for us to provide at school. There was a natural rapport built between role models and participants and I think this will have had a positive impact on many students, especially on their feeling that they could 'fit in' at university.”
Since 2015, we have worked with Brighton Aldridge Community Academy, Portslade Aldridge Community Academy, Longhill High School, Hove Park School, Patcham High School, Cardinal Newman School, Shoreham Academy, Seahaven Academy and Peacehaven Community School
During coronavirus in 2020, instead of creating workshops, our student volunteers are working on creating Activity Books on similar PSHE topics for young people age 12-17, with an additional focus on wellbeing at this time. They are working through the same process of reflecting on what they wish they’d known about the topic when they were younger to create meaningful content for young people today. The first of these will be available mid May - please watch this space! If you are interested in distributing our activity books in your school / organisation, please contact email@example.com