"When I started Young Leaders I was timid and shy. I can walk into a room now, confident that I can meet new people." "I remember doing my first mock GCSEs in Year 9 and being terrified at the time. They felt so hard and it was 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, but I found it really hard. 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 peers was punctuated with difficulties, as his exuberant personality combined with shyness came across as a social awkwardness. This contributed 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 at school. On the Teens and Toddlers programme, Austen spent Thursday afternoons mentoring and being a role a model for a three-year-old child at Clapham Manor Primary School in Lambeth, London. Over the course of the programme, Austen became increasingly confident and comfortable in working with his toddler and by the final weeks he was leading group reading sessions for the whole nursery class. He thrived in this new environment, away from the normal pressures of school. He said that his mentoring experience helped give him the confidence and communication skills he needed to seek help with his revision, engage academically and achieve his desired grades, 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 really helped me with the way in which I prepared for my GCSES.” Austen (now 18) is an active member of our Young Leaders programme while 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, our corporate mentoring academy and a week long internship with Egon Zehnder. Last year, 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. During these expeditions he really impressed the expedition team with his positivity and willingness to venture outside his comfort zone. Most recently, we caught up with Austen at a Young Leaders speed-mentoring and skills development 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 Austen is continuing to develop the key 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.