Published on 1st July 2020 at 17:24.
The Role Models Project has been running at the Students’ Union since 2015 as a volunteer programme and elective module, training students to create and deliver workshops in local secondary schools led by their own experiences of relationships, mental health and wellbeing, social media etc while growing up.
Whilst not being able to meet in person during lockdown, the project has found a way both to provide this opportunity for university students to channel ‘what they wish they’d known’ into something valuable for young people today, and to provide support for secondary school students navigating this strange and uncertain time.
The project has been facilitating an online space for students enrolled in the programme to come together online, discuss ideas around the topics they would have delivered workshops on, and create activities for an activity booklet to be shared with secondary schools.
"Just being able to do something positive during this time has been so good. Because we obviously have to stay at home in order to do the right thing, it means we can’t go out and volunteer or help in the usual way,” says Role Models Project volunteer Josey Milner Day, a third year International Relations student.
The booklets have been a nice opportunity to try and do something for young people, aiming to continue supporting their wellbeing and exploration of important social topics, whilst also being productive and reflective ourselves”.
Katherine White, a second year Anthropology student, who took the Role Models elective modules through the school of Education and Social Work (ESW), spoke about why she thought the activity booklets were so important: “They may be feeling that social pressure in lockdown, to be seen to be learning something new, or doing something useful, so hopefully with the booklet they’ll be learning new things, just not in the conventional way.”
The first booklet, on Wellbeing and Covid 19, has been sent out to over 2300 students in our partner secondary schools as well as being shared with other schools and youth organisations. Download the booklets here:
Feedback from schools has been positive. A teacher from Longhill said: “It's absolutely great and really fits the needs of students in terms of their wellbeing and gives clear and compassionate guidance with a nice range of resources/activities which would suit all learners”
A parent shared how they were working through the booklet with their child: “I am aware of the toll that lockdown is taking on our young people. We need more self care at this time, not more pressure to achieve. There are some great ideas in the booklet which hopefully the students can take with them well after lockdown has ended.”
During lockdown, the project has also launched an interactive instagram account to create a dialogue between young people around wellbeing, resilience, education and the future. Run by Sussex students Drew and Nikki, it aims to support young people’s transitions to sixth form college and to university, recognising that lockdown will have made that harder for many. You can follow @rolemodelstransitions to be part of this conversation and share your experiences.
In 2019/20, the project is funded by the University of Sussex, the Office for Students through The Sussex Learning Network as part of Uni Connect programme, and the Blagrave Trust. The staff running the project are Emily Davies, Al Casey and Natasha Mansley.
Next year the project will be running as elective modules for foundation, first and second year students through the school of Education and Social Work - Discovering and Developing Role Models. The volunteer project will not be running at the Students Union because of the uncertainty of whether it will be possible to go into schools. If there is a desire from students and trustees to restart it, it may pick up again the following year.
Contact: [email protected]