I remember doing my first mock GCSEs in Year Nine and being terrified at the time. The mocks felt so hard. They were intimidating. In the lead up to my exams there were times when I needed to ask people, including my peers, for help or knowledge or advice on certain things. Before I took part in Teens and Toddlers I was very shy inside and outside of school.

Austen* started the Teens and Toddlers programme aged 14; with the boundless enthusiasm that we have come to know as his signature mark. His engagement with his fellow group members was punctuated with difficulties, as his exuberant personality combined with shyness came across as a social awkwardness. This then lead to a fragility in Austen’s mental health. He started to feel as if there was something wrong and this was compounded by changes in his childhood friendships and his experience of being bullied.

Austen used to spend Thursday afternoons being a role a model to a three-year-old child at Clapham Manor Primary School in Lambeth, London as part of Teens and Toddlers. Over the course of his time on the programme, he said that his mentoring experience helped give him the confidence he needed to seek help with his revision and achieve a grade 7 in Maths, something he was incredibly proud of. At the time he told us: 

“I’m ecstatic and it’s awesome that I got a grade 7 in maths. I got the grades I needed to do my A-level options. My experience on the Teens and Toddlers programme helped me with the way in which I prepared for my GCSES.”

Austen (now 18) is an active member of our Young Leaders programme whilst he completes his A-levels in Maths, Physics and Biology. He has taken part in a variety of skills-based workshops including a CV workshop, an Egon Zehder employability workshop and a mentoring academy. In May, he took part in a Young Leaders’ British Exploring Society residential in Dartmoor where he won a spot on the summer expedition to Finland's Saimaa Lakes.

Most recently, we caught up with Austen at a Young Leaders speed-mentoring and pitching event that was run in partnership with AMD. He told us: 

“When I started Young Leaders I was timid and shy. I was scared of people and scared of walking into rooms of people I didn’t know. I learned to work on my interpersonal skills and it helped me to talk to people. I can walk into a room now confident that I can meet new people and get to know them.” 

It’s great to hear how Austin is developing skills that will support him on his path to becoming an engineer in the future.

*A pseudonym has been used to protect Austen’s real identity.