Sometimes it can be hard for learners to take the skills they learn in a classroom and apply them to the real world. How do some of the theories they get taught relate to their actual experiences?
But when young people get the chance to see how their skills impact the people around them, it can help to bring their learning to life.
In this article, we’ll look at some ideas for ways students can put their skills to use and even have fun in the process. Here are some simple but effective ways for students to make a difference in their community:
1. Mentorship programmes
Either in school or college, students could join or setup programmes where they provide support and guidance to younger learners. This could be help with things like studying, personal development or just fitting in with their friends.
At Prenton School on the Wirral, Sports Leadership learners in the school’s upper years offer support with literacy, numeracy and anti-bullying. Nikki Gore, the school’s Head of PE and coordinator for the school’s leadership skills programme told us the programme makes a huge difference for them: “We’ve used the past few years to create an approach to leadership that we know has positive effects on our students. You can tell who our sports leaders are – they put themselves forward and support the school in so many ways.”
2. Community clean-ups
Young people are often passionate about the environment and may want to make a start by helping keep their local area clean and tidy. With over two million pieces of litter dropped every day in the UK, it is a growing problem and a great chance to work as a team. Students can help put on fun events where people in their community join in to clean up parks, streets, or even get their hands dirty planting trees and flowers.
3. Youth sports coaching
Imagine if there were no volunteers – taking part in sport would be a nearly impossible. But when students step up to help out and coach local sports teams or groups, they get to spread their love for the game and inspire their younger peers. Plus, they get to put their skills to the test by talking with the team, working together, and believing in themselves.
4. Organising workshops and seminars
No matter what they’re into, students can put together workshops or seminars on topics that help out their friends and the community. They could cover things like looking after mental health, taking care of money, or protecting our planet. They could do all the research and be the stars of the show, or they could invite experts to share their wisdom. And if getting a place to meet is tricky, why not go high-tech and host an online event, like a TedTalk?
5. Youth Councils
Many communities want young people to take part in local government through youth councils or junior parliaments. We even have a Youth Voice Panel at the Leadership Skills Foundation that some of our learners are a part of! Councils and panels are great places for young people to make a difference and learn how to change things in their area or in an organisation they want to contribute to.
6. Sport for social change
Young people can come up with exciting sports programmes to deal with important issues like reducing youth violence, boosting mental well-being, or promoting access for everyone to play sport. Sometimes, they might already find fantastic projects like these going on, often with the support of local councils or linked to professional sports teams’ charitable foundations. The Sport for Development Coalition, which we are a member of, highlights some great projects and campaigns for inspiration.
7. Digital literacy workshops
Youngsters today are pretty tech-savvy, having grown up with gadgets and gizmos all around them. But not everyone’s as cosy with technology. That’s where students can step in and share their know-how, helping older folks in the community get the hang of digital stuff. It’s like being a tech tutor, making sure they can chat with family and explore the web with ease! Local libraries frequently host these events to support the local community – they would be delighted to have support from people in the area with the knowledge to help.
8. Volunteer for local charities
There are plenty of opportunities for students to give some of their time to help out charities or local groups. They can pitch in at food banks, organise events to raise money, or lend a hand with community projects. Volunteering is a big part of our learning programmes, and it’s like a secret ingredient that helps students grow in confidence, talk to people, work together, and get better at being organised.
By taking part in activities like these, young people with dreams of bringing about change or making the world the way they want it to be have a great chance to see the impact they can have when they put their skills into practice.
Sometimes the hardest part is getting started. By having an idea of the changes they want to see, young people can start to plot their journey towards getting things done.
And often the best way to make big changes is to start small: are there things in their community that are missing or that the people around them could benefit from? It’s not always easy to know straight away where learners can make a difference, so sometimes they might just need to reach out to those around them and listen to the things they are concerned about.
All our qualifications include volunteering hours, which really cements the theory element. Crucially, it starts learners on the path of seeing the positive impact they have on the world around them, which is ultimately the beginning of their road to empowerment.