I experienced the feeling of inclusion and that I wasn’t alone. Many people from around the world hate themselves and their race, but being encouraged to celebrate your culture is very validatingYear 10 pupil who attended Riya’s Cultural Celebration Great Get Together
When Riya became a City Year UK volunteer mentor at a school in the Black Country, she realised there was something missing. Despite the hard work of school staff in all areas, there were multi-faith festivals and celebrations which were not being acknowledged, despite the cultural diversity in the school. This made Riya reflect on her own school experiences and she realised she had encountered the same thing when she was at school too.
“Change starts with us and starts from within. If we educate ourselves, we can educate others” Riya, City Year UK school service leader.
Riya planned, and ran two major diversity projects – one of which was a Great Get Together. It empowered young people to celebrate their heritage and culture by allowing them to ‘#RepTheirRoots’. She organised food sharing and tasting, cultural games and competitions, a dance exhibition and encouraged students to share their cultural identity with others. Staff and students joined together to wear cultural dress and the result was phenomenal.
I have learnt that we are all special, even though we are from other countries!Year 7 pupil
Riya laid the foundations for a beautiful project which involves the whole school community and thanks to her, it has expanded across other schools where City Year UK volunteers are based. After hearing of the success of Riya’s Great Get Together, four other schools took part in a cultural celebration day to celebrate the Great Get Together. Whole schools shared food, there was bhangra dancing led by students and teachers for both students and staff, dhol drum sessions, class decoration contests (with each tutor group exploring and growing their understanding of a different culture), and mehndi hand painting led by the students for students.
I got to see teachers who looked like and dressed like me and I loved how the academy came together to celebrate how diverse our school is.Year 9 pupil
To add to Riya’s list of achievements, as well as leaving this Great Get Together legacy, she was runner up in the Future Makers Award in 2022 and awarded ‘highly commended for inclusivity aimed to promote and enhance DEI in every part of the workplace’.
City Year UK volunteers have also gone on to engage in the Great Winter Get Together through the following activities:
- Youth loneliness training which has been used to support young people who feel isolated in schools.
- A project to encourage students to reach out to the community and take part in an intergenerational games afternoon. Students were encouraged to fundraise to purchase the games which were then gifted to a local care home, students spent time visiting and interacting with the residents and playing the games they had bought.
- Challenges to support those in their community, such as a fundraising walk to buy books for their school community.
What is City Year UK?
City Year UK works across 18 schools in 3 main regions across England: London, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. Its main purpose is to tackle education inequality, enhancing the life chances of young people often furthest from opportunity and from a range of multicultural, underrepresented or diverse backgrounds.
The organisation works with talented young people who give a year of service, volunteering full time as mentors to young people in inner city secondary schools. The volunteers want to make a real difference and look for ways to do this.
As part of its work, City Year recognises that for young people to succeed – there are found key areas where they must experience success and achieve validation. There are: Active Engagement, Assertiveness, Belonging and Reflection. Communities and young people need to feel a sense of belonging, that their voices are heard and that they are seen and valued by those around them.
Through active engagement with its EDI (Education, Diversity and Inclusion) programme and engagement with opportunities like the Great Get Together and the Great Winter Get Together, City Year UK seeks to show that we have more in common and are stronger as a community when we embrace and welcome diversity, accepting people for who they are and allowing greater authenticity.
From 12-15 January 2024, Great Winter Get Together events around the UK will connect communities and show that winter doesn’t have to be lonely.