Young Hull Volunteer gets a HeadStart to a bright future

A HeadStart Hull volunteer has been selected as the only UK student to join a select group from around the world at the prestigious Genesis Academy in Chicago.

Kaitlyn Robson, 16, will soon fly off to the states to make changes on a global scale, but it was her work on a local programme that gave her the experience to do so.

HeadStart Hull, a partnership programme led by Hull City Council, aims to build resilience with children and young people in the city, bringing together multiple services and projects to offer support and help. It was created for young people, so it was only fitting that the campaigns were directed by young people, and this is where the work of the volunteers plays a key role.

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Kaitlyn’s work as a ‘HeadStarter’ volunteer has seen her develop an impressive CV for someone so young and has helped shape and deliver many important awareness campaigns aimed at helping the young people of Hull

The hard work paid off, and during the summer, Kaitlyn will be flying out to the academy for two weeks for a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Genesis Academy Summer Institute uses arts and education to bridge divides and promote peacekeeping, and the select, small group of students from across the world, will meet with thought leaders, activists, and artists, and participate in different learning opportunities to examine how and why conflict happens.

Using theatre, comedy, music, photography, film, writing and more, participants will explore their individual voices, collective humanity, and the issues we all face as a global community.

Kaitlyn began her journey after a tough transition to secondary school, where she decided to become a peer mentor, helping to support over 30 of her fellow pupils with the same issues.

It was her work as a peer mentor that saw her becoming involved with Hull Young People’s Parliament, and after attending several meetings, she caught the bug and decided to run for election, successfully winning the vote. This meant she also represented the Hull Youth Parliament nationally ensuring the views of children and young people in Hull were heard at a national level.

Working jointly on several campaigns for HeadStart Hull such as the top tip advice cards for young people, she was asked to join the ‘HeadStarters’, the group of young volunteers who shape the campaigns, as a core member in 2017.

Through HeadStart Hull, Kaitlyn has helped to design and deliver some impressive campaigns such as the “You Are Not Alone” suicide prevention campaign, which carried positive messages across the Humber Bridge and other significant landmarks across the city, an anti-bullying campaign, and the more recent “StereNOtyping” campaign, aimed at challenging stereotyping and encouraging victims to report hate crime. As well as volunteering Kaitlyn was accepted for a 12 month work experience placement, supporting the participation and co-production work of HeadStart Hull, and also opened the doors to become heavily involved in citywide events such as Hull’s year as the UK City of Culture, critiquing and reporting the events as the voice of the young people of Hull.

Kaitlyn said “As a peer mentor I gained my level 1 and 2 qualifications, met new friends and got lots of satisfaction from knowing I had helped many others just like me, but I wanted to do more. Being part of HeadStart Hull helped me go from being politically aware to politically active before I was old enough to vote.”

“It has also given me more confidence and a great sense of pride in my city, as well as a wider view of just how much work goes into things now.”

“I remember what it was like before we had HeadStart in Hull and it is so much better now, with everyone being more aware of early intervention and how important it is. If I could give anyone thinking of joining some advice I would say, just do it! You will always find something you are passionate about.”

“I hope HeadStart Hull carries on forever because the city needs it”

Kaitlyn felt that applying to the Genesis Academy Summer Institute was a natural progression to her work with HeadStart Hull, and, apprehensive at first, was then shocked to hear her selection as the only candidate from the UK to join others from around the world to travel to Chicago for a chance to make a change on a global scale.

Her time at the academy will not be the end of her journey however, and following the trip, Kaitlyn has secured work experience at the House of Commons, before moving to Australia to finish her education and progress to study Law with Politics at university.

The trip to Chicago has been jointly funded by HeadStart Hull, Back to Ours and Absolutely Cultured.

Gail Teasdale, Programme Manager for HeadStart Hull said “Kaitlyn has been an incredible volunteer for us here at HeadStart Hull and a true ambassador and inspiration for young people in Hull. Watching her develop over her time with us has been a privilege and we are proud to be supporting her on this once in a lifetime trip.”

“Kaitlyn’s story is a great example of what young people can achieve if they get involved with programmes like HeadStart Hull, and we are always on lookout for more volunteers.”

Clair Atherton, HeadStart Hull Participation & Co-Production Officer said, “Kaitlyn has worked incredibly hard as a volunteer and work experience student and is an absolute asset to the HeadStart Hull co-production team. During her placement Kaitlyn has planned and co-facilitated workshops to children and young people in schools and in the community, has evaluated services, helped to recruit new staff, has evaluated funding bids and awarded small grants, and has co-delivered training presentations to staff across the city. Supporting Kaitlyn and watching her grow has been a real honour. I’m over the moon that Kaitlyn has this opportunity to channel her drive and passion to help change the world for the better.”

Louise Yates, Back to Ours Director, said, “Kaitlyn will be a brilliant advocate for Hull and the UK, and it’ll be a huge learning experience for her. How often do opportunities like this come along?

“We’re looking forward to hearing all about her adventures.”

Information on HeadStart Hull can be found by following @HullHeadStart on Twitter or by visiting Howareyoufeeling.org.uk

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