London Youth Rowing helps to break down barriers with mentoring programme

In this #YourStories submission, forty-four student rowers successfully graduated from Breaking Barriers, London Youth Rowing’s inspirational life skills programme, last month


Breaking Barriers students (c) John Trigg

London Youth Rowing’s life skills mentoring programme, Breaking Barriers, is celebrating another exceptional year with 44 students attending a special graduation ceremony at London Bridge in April.

The programme helps young rowers to flourish as they transition from school into the wider world, recognising that the soft skills required to be a successful rower, such as time management, communication and teamwork, are also necessary for success in the classroom and in the workplace.

Students have been chosen from schools in south and east London, including nine from St Angela’s Ursuline School, seven from Brampton Manor Academy, 14 from Ark Walworth Academy and 14 from St Michael’s Catholic College.

Moeleek Benjamin, a year 10 student from Ark Walworth Academy, explained how Breaking Barriers had helped him, saying, “I think I’ve learned how to communicate better. I’ve learned how to speak more formally, because normally when I’m with my friends I talk a lot of slang.”

Fellow Ark Walworth Academy student, Juliette Agyeman, enjoyed learning about teamwork.

She said, “In the workplace setting, sometimes you have to work with your colleagues and I think rowing has helped me with that.”

Breaking Barriers students learn to row and are linked with corporate mentors at weekly workshops in order to broaden aspirations, develop life skills and provide future pathways. The programme is about to go into its fifth year, expanding from mentoring year 9 and 10 in groups to mentoring year 12 and 13 students on a one-to-one basis.

It is very energising and it’s good to do our bit to make our world a better one

So what does it involve? Over the course of six months, volunteer mentors lead sessions each week that encourage life skill development in a fun and interactive way. For example, working together as a team to build the tallest and most structurally sound spaghetti and marshmallow towers, against the clock.

Jenny Cooper, Breaking Barriers Programme Manager, said, “This year we worked with 40 mentors, each volunteering between 1.5 hours and 40 hours of their own time. Many of them have also taken to the water to learn the ropes with their mentees!”

One of the mentors was Tideway East Project Director François Pogu, who explained, “It is very refreshing and allows us to get back to basics and reality. It is very energising and it’s good to do our bit to make our world a better one.”

Get involved!

London Youth Rowing is currently recruiting mentors for the 2018-19 Breaking Barriers programme. Why not volunteer your time to imparting knowledge and expertise that could change young people’s lives. Contact Andy Smith for more information.

We would love to hear any stories that you have about your club or community. Why not share them with us via #YourStories