This #iwill Week, Sonia from Kingston Hub discusses the challenges and benefits of engaging a diverse student population in high quality social action.
Kingston University has a wonderfully diverse student body. Working at Kingston Hub, I have encountered a wide variety of students who are often overlooked in higher education: commuters, parents, carers and those with multiple part-time jobs, to name a few examples.
Students from these backgrounds flourish on our social action programmes. Student Hubs’ 2016-17 Impact Report revealed that 36% of students taking part in programmes across our network had never taken part in social action before. At Kingston this figure was higher – 52.8%. Alongside this, our outcomes data shows that our programmes equip students to become better at approaching and leading challenges.
As a proud partner of the #iwill campaign and Generation Change, we are committed to continuously developing our programmes and improving our impact in these areas. We believe that all students should have access to high quality social action opportunities. Programmes should build students’ key skills, add capacity to local organisations and create a genuine sense of belonging in communities.
But engaging students who do not usually take part in extracurricular or community activities is challenging. Reaching and supporting these students requires more than providing travel expenses to volunteering sessions.
As Kingston Hub’s Programmes Manager, I regularly spend time with students from a wide range of backgrounds, getting to know their daily experiences, aspirations, motivations and challenges. Our team has developed an understanding of the many barriers students can face, and put time and resources into figuring out how to remove them.
To make sure we give everyone a fair opportunity to take part, we enable students to bring their children to committee meetings. We work around part-time jobs. We give tailored support to students who have disabilities. We change our selection processes to make sure everyone who wants to attend can. Our face-to-face and online communications show students that volunteering offers more than knitting a hat or signing a petition. We meet students where they are and speak to them about their experiences and interests.
We recruit students with potential, regardless of background, and give them the resources necessary to succeed – now and in the future.
If your social action programmes only target students who are already engaged, you are missing out on so much valuable experience and knowledge. Only with a diverse pool of volunteers can we challenge the way we think, act on social issues in our communities and begin to tackle some of the toughest challenges our society faces. We know we are just getting started and we hope you will join us.
Want to learn more? Read about Student Hubs’ accessibility initiatives and take a look at Kingston Hubs’ activities.