You might be familiar with student ambassadors and may have just passed them off as being over-enthusiastic students wearing bright red/blue shirts giving campus tours or sharing their experiences of their time at Kings, trying to make some money to cover their living expenses. That’s what I thought at the beginning as well. In fact, I actually remember thinking I hope I never have to do that, but halfway through my application for the role of a Student Success and Social Mobility officer, I realised it was much more than just getting a few extra pounds.
The application itself felt like some sort of inner revelation. They asked questions that really only people that have had some sort of deep spiritual awakening would be able to answer clearly, ‘What aspect of helping others appeals to you?’ was one such question that threw me off. I was expecting to be asked questions like ‘Tell me a time when you worked in a team’, which I was well-prepared for, but this made me think deeply about not only what I did but how it made me feel, which is rare for a job application that only wants to hear about what you have done and not necessarily why. Even the simple questions like ‘What does Widening Participation mean to you?’, which followed the natural job application structure, had me contemplating my entire existence.
What did Widening Participation mean to me?
It’s the opportunity to give back. Personally, without the Widening Participation scheme, I wouldn’t be sitting here at a Russell Group university. At a time when the world felt like and truly was turned upside down, when A-level results were dictated by teachers’ predictions and their perception of what they think you’re capable of, it was inevitable that fairness was not going to prevail. Between multiple calls to clearing, frantic walks back and forth in the living room, worried faces and angst regarding the future, King’s, more specifically Widening Participation, was my saving grace. So, it really felt like I had to be a part of and give back to this community somehow, and being part of the student social mobility team was the way I could do that.
It’s also an opportunity to give back to the wider community, the ethnic minorities and first-generation university students. The thought of being able to use my experience to help make other people’s lives a little easier was one of the main reasons I applied. It’s easy to assume everyone knows the education process or knows someone who does, but many don’t, and to be part of a scheme that gives them the tools and guidance to make them aware and help them fill in those gaps, is very rewarding. As well as giving back, it’s also about representation. In the same way that we would like to see ourselves represented in mainstream media, it’s also important to see ourselves represented in places such as universities and higher education institutions, as this can have a profound impact on others aspiring to reach the same place. There’s a quote, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’, which perfectly summarises the rationale behind these schemes and is a huge motivation to apply.
Being part of a community like the Widening Participation scheme is a great way to connect with people that have been through similar circumstances as you and have the same drive and passion to use their experiences to help others. Seeing kids and sixth formers aspiring to be in the same place as you, getting the confidence to believe they can do it, is something that is gratifying and is why everyone should consider applying.